Measurement of carotid artery intima-media thickness in dyslipidemic patients increases the power of traditional risk factors to predict cardiovascular events

Damiano Baldassarre, Mauro Amato, Linda Pustina, Samuela Castelnuovo, Silvia Sanvito, Lorenzo Gerosa, Fabrizio Veglia, Shlomo Keidar, Elena Tremoli, Cesare R Sirtori
Atherosclerosis 2007, 191 (2): 403-8
A longitudinal observational study investigated whether the measurement, in clinical practice, of carotid maximum intima-media thickness (Max-IMT) could be combined with the Framingham risk score (FRS) to improve the predictability of cardiovascular events in dyslipidemic patients who are at low or intermediate risk. Max-IMT was measured by ultrasound in 1969 patients attending a lipid clinic. The "best threshold values" (BTVs) above which we considered the Max-IMT to be abnormally high were calculated for our dyslipdemic population for each 10-year age interval in men and women. Two hundred and forty-two patients (age 54+/-10 years; 43.8% women) with an FRS <20%, i.e. at low or intermediate risk, were monitored for more than 5 years. Twenty-four of these patients suffered a cardiovascular event within 5.1+/-2.3 years. Both FRS and Max-IMT proved to be independent outcome predictors (p<0.04, both), with a hazard ratio (HR) of 6.7 (95% CI 1.43, 31.04; p=0.015) in patients in whom FRS was 10-20% and Max-IMT was above the BTV (60th percentile of Max-IMT distribution for men or 80th for women). In Kaplan-Meier analysis, the Max-IMT significantly improved the predictive value of the FRS (chi(2)=8.13, p=0.04). Patients with FRS 10-20% (currently considered intermediate-risk) and also elevated Max-IMT values came into the same high-risk category as patients with FRS 20-30%. The combination of FRS with Max-IMT measurement can be used in routine clinical practice to greatly enhance the predictability of cardiovascular events in the large number of patients who fall into the intermediate-risk category, which currently does not call for aggressive preventive measures.

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