Inflammation and haemostasis in the development and progression of peripheral atherosclerotic disease
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) defines atherosclerotic disease of the arteries to the legs. PAD begins early in life and remains asymptomatic over long periods. The ankle brachial index (ABI) is an important diagnostic test which can identify asymptomatic individuals and serve as a good marker of the underlying peripheral and systemic atherosclerosis. Recent advances in vascular biology proposed a role of inflammatory and haemostatic mechanisms in atherosclerotic disease. Although inflammatory and haemostatic markers have been associated with coronary atherosclerosis in large scale epidemiological studies their role in PAD development is not well established and for many markers unknown. Also, their relationship with the progression of early asymptomatic disease has not been studied before. The aim of this thesis was to examine 12 markers of inflammation and haemostasis in relation to peripheral atherosclerotic progression and incident PAD. The Edinburgh Artery Study was used for this analysis. This is a population based cohort study of 1,592 men and women recruited in 1987. ABI was measured at baseline and at two follow up examinations which were conducted after 5 and after 12 years. Also, subjects were followed up for cardiovascular events for 17 years. Conventional cardiovascular risk factors, C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1), vascular adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1), E-selectin, fibrinogen, D-dimer, tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA), vonWillebrand factor (vWF), factor VII, fibrinopeptide A (FpA) and prothrombin fragments 1+2 (F1+2) were measured at baseline. Valid ABI measurements were available for 1,582 subjects at baseline, for 1,081 subjects at the 5 year follow up and for 816 subjects at the 12 year follow up. The population showed a progression in atherosclerotic disease assessed by the mean ABI decline over time. The mean change in ABI was -0.04 (0.18) after 5 years and -0.06 (0.19) after 12 years. From inflammatory markers, CRP (p <0.01), IL-6 (p <0.001) and ICAM-1 (p <0.01) were associated with atherosclerotic progression after 12 years, independently of baseline ABI and of conventional cardiovascular risk factors. Also, from haemostatic markers, fibrinogen (p =0.05) and D-dimer (p ≤ 0.05) were significantly associated with atherosclerotic progression independently of baseline ABI and cardiovascular risk factors. Moreover, subjects with higher levels of both D-dimer and IL-6 at baseline had the greatest ABI decline. Also, IL-6 showed the stronger independent effect on atherosclerotic progression and retained statistical significance after adjustments for all inflammatory markers and for fibrinogen and D-dimer. Approximately 26% of the baseline population developed at least one event of major CVD and 14% of the baseline population developed symptomatic PAD after 17 years of follow up. Inflammatory markers, CRP and IL-6 showed modest associations with PAD which lost statistical significance in the multivariable model. On the other hand, these markers were associated with incident major CVD with hazard ratios (95% CI) 1.6 (1.2, 2.3) and 1.8 (1.3, 2.6) respectively (top vs. bottom tertile) in the multivariable model. ICAM-1 showed weak associations with incident CVD, however, was significantly associated with PAD with hazard ratio (95% CI) 1.8 (1.2, 2.7) (top vs. bottom tertile) after adjustments for cardiovascular risk factors and CVD at baseline. Haemostatic markers, fibrinogen and D-dimer were associated with 2.2 (95% CI: 1.5, 3.2) and 1.7 (1.2, 2.6) increase in the risk of PAD development and 1.8 (1.3, 2.3) and 1.6 (1.2, 2.1) increase in the risk of CVD independently of cardiovascular risk factors and history of CVD at baseline, respectively. This analysis showed a major role of inflammatory markers, CRP, IL-6 and ICAM-1 in atherosclerotic development and progression. In addition, fibrinogen and D-dimer, but not other haemostatic factors, were associated with progressive and incident peripheral atherosclerosis. Since D-dimer and fibrinogen are acute phase reactants, these data support the hypothesis that inflammation is more related to atherosclerosis than is hypercoagulation. Most importantly, the majority of the reported associations were not explained by increased levels of cardiovascular risk factors or pre-existing clinical or subclinical arterial disease. Thus these markers are more likely to have a causal than a consequential role in atherosclerotic disease.