Accelerated coronary artery disease and myocardial infarction in young patients with systemic lupus erythematosus is well documented; however, the prevalence of coronary involvement is unknown. Accordingly, 26 patients with systemic lupus were selected irrespective of previous cardiac history to undergo exercise thallium-201 cardiac scintigraphy. Segmental perfusion abnormalities were present in 10 of the 26 studies (38.5 percent). Five patients had reversible defects suggesting ischemia, four patients had persistent defects consistent with scar, and one patient had both reversible and persistent defects in two areas. There was no correlation between positive thallium results and duration of disease, amount of corticosteroid treatment, major organ system involvement or age. Only a history of pericarditis appeared to be associated with positive thallium-201 results (p < 0.05). It is concluded that segmental myocardial perfusion abnormalities are common in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. Whether this reflects large-vessel coronary disease or small-vessel abnormalities remains to be determined.
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