Introduction: Tumour necrosis factor (TNF) blocking therapy is an effective treatment for chronic inflammatory arthritis. As circulating TNF might induce or exacerbate the development of congestive heart failure (CHF), several trials have investigated the effect of TNF blocking therapy on CHF. However, due to inefficacy and even a risk of exacerbation of CHF, TNF blocking therapy has since then been contraindicated in patients with advanced CHF, New York Heart Association class III and IV. We review current knowledge on the pathophysiological mechanisms and safety of TNF blocking therapy in chronic inflammatory arthritis patients with regard to CHF. Methods: A systematic search of the literature published up till December 2013 was conducted in MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library to identify all studies investigating the effect of TNF blocking therapy on the occurrence and risk of CHF in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and psoriatic arthritis (PsA). All articles reporting data on the prevalence or incidence of CHF during treatment with TNF blocking therapy in patients with in RA, AS or PsA were included. Also imaging studies and studies with biomarkers, investigating the effect of TNF blocking therapy on cardiac function were included. Results: In total, 54 studies were included. Results from large prospective registries suggest that first, a potentially harmful effect of TNF blocking therapy on the incidence of CHF in older RA patients cannot be excluded and that no harmful effect was observed of TNF blocking therapy in other patients. Second, we found that TNF blocking therapy potentially improves several echocardiographic parameters of cardiac function in RA, AS and PsA, but due to small sample sizes, these results require validation in larger studies. Third, we found improvement in NT-proBNP levels after use of TNF blocking therapy in both RA and AS. Conclusion: Based on current literature, in patients with chronic inflammatory arthritis and concomitant symptomatic mild-tomoderate CHF (NYHA class I or II), treatment with TNF blocking therapy is not contraindicated. In chronic inflammatory arthritis patients with concomitant symptomatic moderate-to-severe CHF, NYHA class III-IV, treatment with TNF blocking therapy should be avoided if possible. Whenever, treatment with TNF-blocking therapy is considered in these patients consultation with a cardiologist is recommended before treatment is initiated.
Keywords: Ankylosing spondylitis, congestive heart failure, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, tumor necrosis factor.
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