Objectives: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with premature atherosclerosis and increased prevalence of cardiovascular disease. The objective of this review is to summarize current and emerging imaging modalities for the evaluation of subclinical atherosclerosis in RA, with an emphasis on potential application of novel modalities, high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography, as screening tools for early cardiovascular disease risk stratification. Methods: A PubMed literature search was undertaken using the search terms "rheumatoid arthritis" AND "cardiovascular disease" OR "atherosclerosis" OR "plaque" and including all relevant terms for imaging modalities. Results: Two noninvasive imaging modalities have been widely adopted for direct visualization of arterial wall: carotid ultrasonography and cardiac computed tomography. Published studies in the RA population using these 2 modalities are reviewed. Novel cardiovascular imaging modalities are described, with an emphasis on high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography. Emerging research tools in vascular imaging, including dynamic and cardiac stress perfusion contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging, are presented. The incremental imaging capabilities to characterize plaque composition and vessel wall inflammation as well myocardial abnormalities and published studies are systematically reviewed. Conclusions: An increasing number of cardiovascular imaging modalities with improved characterization of features associated with plaque vulnerability have been developed. Given the heightened cardiovascular risk profile of the RA population, these novel imaging modalities offer promise for risk stratification and drug safety evaluation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)676-688
Number of pages13
JournalSeminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cardiac computed tomography
  • Cardiovascular imaging
  • Inflammation
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Plaque
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ultrasonography
  • Vessel wall


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