Statin-treated familial hypercholesterolemia patients with coronary heart disease and pronounced atherosclerosis do not have more brain lesions than healthy controls in later middle age

S Soljanlahti, R Raininko, L Hyttinen, K Lauerma, P Keto, A F Vuorio, T Autti
Acta Radiologica 2007, 48 (8): 894-9

BACKGROUND: Clinically silent brain lesions detected with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are associated with increased risk for stroke, while stroke risk is controversial in familial hypercholesterolemia (FH).

PURPOSE: To determine whether the occurrence and size of clinically silent brain lesions in FH patients with coronary heart disease (CHD) is higher than in neurologically healthy controls without CHD.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Brain MRI (1.5T) was performed on 19 DNA-test-verified FH patients with CHD and on 29 cardiovascularly and neurologically healthy controls, all aged 48 to 64 years. All patients were on cardiovascular medication. Intracranial arteries were evaluated by MR angiography. Infarcts, including lacunas, and white matter T2 hyperintensities (WMHI), considered as signs of small vessel disease, were recorded. A venous blood sample was obtained for assessment of risk factors. Carotid and femoral intima-media thicknesses (IMT), assessed with ultrasound, were indicators of overall atherosclerosis.

RESULTS: On intracranial MR angiography, three patients showed irregular walls or narrowed lumens in intracranial carotid arteries. No silent infarcts appeared, and no differences in numbers or sizes of WMHIs between groups were recorded. Patients had greater carotid and femoral IMTs, and a greater number of carotid and femoral plaques. Cholesterol-years score, level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and level of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) of the FH-North Karelia patients were higher than those of the controls, while the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in controls was higher.

CONCLUSION: FH patients with CHD and adequate cardiovascular risk-factor treatment showed no difference in the amount or size of clinically silent brain lesions compared to controls, despite patients' more severe atherosclerosis.

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