Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a condition that’s characterized by flares of intestinal inflammation. However, as IBD numbers rise, researchers are beginning to discover hidden dangers of IBD – like serious secondary diseases and the risk for huge complications. During IBD flares, hospitalization for heart failure more than doubles – this being published in a study recently conducted in Europe. Previous studies have linked IBD to a number of other diseases, especially autoimmune conditions like lupus, arthritis, and psoriasis. IBD has even proven detrimental to the cardiovascular system in previous clinical studies, as the movement of inflammatory mediators from the intestine to the bloodstream can have serious effects on the cardiovascular system. With increased inflammatory molecules entering the bloodstream, the patient’s risk for venous and arterial thrombotic disease greatly increases. This means that the blood becomes thickened, injury to the inside lining of blood vessels may occur, and cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke become more likely to occur.
The new European study is the first to analyze whether the risk of heart failure in patients with IBD is elevated. Specifically, the research team wanted to know whether IBD flares are associated with increased risk of heart failure. Using a cohort of more than 5 million adults, the team documented nearly 24,000 cases of IBD. Of this 24,000, approximately 500 were hospitalized for heart failure during the study. After adjusting for age and sex, the researchers found that 37% of IBD patients had increased risk of heart failure compared to those without IBD. The team also looked at the effects of IBD flare-ups. Flare-ups are defined as periods of hospitalization due to IBD symptoms, or persistent IBD activity such as repeated prescriptions. During flare-ups, the risk of heart failure more than doubled, suggesting that effective IBD treatments that reduce the duration of disease flare- ups may actually lower the risk of heart failure.
The researchers also explain that this risk of increased hospitalization for heart failure not only applies to older patients, but young patients, as well. The findings are significant, as detecting heart failure in the early stages is necessary for inhibiting its progression and improving disease outcomes. Because IBD causes symptoms in various body systems, healthcare professionals may someday use these effects in predicting the risk of heart failure. For example, IBD can cause anemia and side effects involving the musculoskeletal, skin, liver, and eye systems. Now that the correlation between IBD and heart failure is clear, future studies will focus on anti-inflammatory treatments that contribute to long-term remission of IBD. It’s very likely that these treatments with significantly reduce the risk of not only heart failure in IBD patients, but cardiovascular disease, in general. The research team also noted that the use of glucocorticoids to control inflammation may also contribute to the detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system. Glucocorticoids are often used to manage and control IBD, but the team is unsure if this treatment contributes to cardiovascular risk. Future studies will incorporate various treatments used in IBD in order to rule out additional risks caused by pharmaceuticals.