Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs improve autonomic neuropathy in arthritis: DIANA study

Syngle A, Verma I, Krishan P, Garg N, Syngle V.

Clin Rheumatol. 2015;34(7):1233-41.


Autonomic neuropathy (AN) is a risk predictor for sudden cardiac death in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and ankylosing spondylitis (AS). However, the impact of most commonly employed disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD) therapy on autonomic neuropathy in rheumatic diseases is not known. Hence, we investigated the efficacy of DMARDs on autonomic neuropathy in RA and AS. We performed autonomic function assessment in 60 patients in this open-label, 12-week pilot study including 42 patients with RA, 18 with AS, and 30 aged-matched healthy subjects. The methodology included assessment of cardiovascular autonomic reflex tests according to Ewing. Parasympathetic dysfunction was established by performing three tests: heart rate response to deep breathing, standing, and Valsalva tests. Sympathetic dysfunction was examined by applying two tests: blood pressure response to standing and handgrip tests. Sudomotor function was assessed by SUDOSCAN. Cardiovascular reflex tests were impaired significantly among the patients as compared to healthy subjects (p < 0.05). Autonomic neuropathy was more pronounced in biologic-naive RA and AS patients. After treatment with combination synthetic DMARDs, parasympathetic, and sudomotor dysfunction significantly (p < 0.05) improved in RA and AS. Biologic DMARDs significantly improved parasympathetic, sympathetic and peripheral sympathetic autonomic neuropathy (p < 0.05) in biologic-naive RA and AS patients. In conclusion, synthetic DMARDs improved parasympathetic and sudomotor dysfunction in both DMARD-naive RA and AS patients. However, biologic DMARDs improved parasympathetic, sympathetic and sudomotor dysfunction to a greater extent than synthetic DMARDs in both RA and AS patients.