Although people with lupus have an increased risk for coronary artery disease (CAD), they are much more likely to be admitted to a hospital for lupus itself, infections, or kidney failure than CAD, according to a new study by Michael Ward, M.D., M.P.H., of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).

Dr. Ward and his colleague Christine Thornburg, M.D., of Stanford University School of Medicine used the Nationwide Inpatient Sample of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project to estimate the number of hospitalizations for CAD among lupus patients in the United States in 1998. Of 98,217 hospitalizations studied, 4,951 were for CAD, a much less common figure than for lupus itself, infections, or-in young women-complications of chronic kidney failure.

The study, carried out at Stanford, is the first to examine the burden of CAD among people with lupus. Although not a common reason for hospitalization, CAD is nevertheless an important comorbid condition for lupus patients, the authors point out.

Lupus, an autoimmune disease, can affect many parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels and brain. People who have lupus may have many different symptoms, but some of the most common ones include extreme fatigue, painful or swollen joints (arthritis), unexplained fever, skin rashes and kidney problems. Many more women than men have lupus. It is three times more common in African American women than in Caucasian women and is also more common in women of Hispanic, Asian and Native American descent.

The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services' National Institutes of Health, is to support research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases, the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research, and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases. For more information about NIAMS, call the information clearinghouse at (301) 495-4484 or (877) 22-NIAMS (free call) or visit the NIAMS Web site at

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Thornburg C, Ward M. Hospitalizations for coronary heart disease among patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. Arthritis & Rheumatism 2003;48(9):2519-2523.

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