Vol 21, No 2 (2014)
Review Article
Published online: 2014-04-15

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Cardiac pathology and modern therapeutic approach in Behçet disease

Giuseppe Cocco, Paul Jerie
DOI: 10.5603/CJ.a2013.0056
Cardiol J 2014;21(2):105-114.


Behçet disease (BD) is an enigmatic inflammatory disorder with multisystemic complications which is endemic in some countries but can be seen in the entire world. Valid diagnostic criteria are available. The pathology is related to a specific perivasculitis with involvement of both arteries and veins of all sizes. Minor arterial and cardiac involvement is frequent in BD but is usually asymptomatic. In exceptional cases cardiac symptoms may be the 1st manifestation of BD. The prevalence of severe cardiac complications (cardio-Behçet) should be < 10%. An impressive therapeutic improvement has been achieved by using appropriate catheterization techniques, coronary and intra-arterial stents, colchicine, drug-response modifying drugs and immunotherapy but, still cardio-Behçet has a poor prognosis. Efforts are undertaken to improve morbidity and prognosis with the use of newer drugs. An important part of the complications in BD are related to the frequent thromboembolic complications and there is high possibility that newer oral anticoagulants will be superior to the classical anticoagulants presently used. Available biologic agents have already been frequently used and seem to have improved the prognosis, but efforts are undertaken to find newer biologic agents with better therapeutic performance and less side-effects. Summarizing as much as possible the effects of the presently used biotherapy in BD, interferon-alpha is effective against many ocular, genital and perhaps vascular manifestations, but its effectiveness is limited by frequent adverse-effects (even if not dangerous for the cardiovascular system). Infliximab is a valid option in the therapy of ocular and cutaneous manifestations but it is less convincing in the therapy of vascular manifestations in vascular- and neuro-Behçet; furthermore, side-effects, including severe cardiovascular complications, are seen in a minority of patients; perhaps worse, infliximab seems to loose efficacy in the long-term therapy, while pharmacogenetics and receptor polymorphism may explain the existence of non-responders and the occurrence of resistance. Adalimumab might be a promising alternative for infliximab and seems to exert a good effect in an eurysmatic and other vascular complications. However, we lack long-term studies. Other biologic agents have been used only in few cases and it is too early to say if they offer new therapeutic perspectives.