Lupus and Cardiovascular Disease

Lupus and Cardiovascular Disease

As an echocardiographer, you have no doubt been called up to the floors of the hospital to do echos on people who have lupus. Many of you, including me, have probably wondered what it is you are looking for.

Lupus, otherwise known as “systemic lupus erythematosus†or SLE, is a systemic autoimmune disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack its own healthy tissue, particularly the joints, organs and connective tissue. It affects women far more often than men, particularly people of African American descent between the ages of 35 and 50.

Its cause is not exactly known, there is no cure, and is typically treated with steroids to reduce the inflammation of the affected organs and tissues. It often presents itself with a butterfly rash along the nose and cheeks, fatigue, joint and muscle pain.

So, why do an echo?

The heart is not just a slab of muscle that pumps blood; it has a skeleton, a fibro muscular component that holds the septums and the valvular apparatus in place. (See my blog at www. for more information, “Skeleton of the Heartâ€).

This cross-shaped skeleton, at its center, is called the “crux†of the heart. If everything meets at the crux and develops a normally, then you will have four chambers four valves and a normally functioning heart. This fibro muscular core of the heart is essentially connective tissue, and is therefore at risk.

As an echocardiographer, look carefully at the pericardial sac to evaluate for pericardial effusion, look at all four valves, especially the mitral and tricuspid valve and evaluate for sclerosis. Also look for pleural effusion.

Thank you

Ken Heiden RDCS