Current ultrasound protocols to measure carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) in trials differ considerably. The best CIMT protocol would be one that combines high reproducibility, a large and precise estimate of the rate of CIMT progression and a large and precise estimate of the treatment effect. We performed a post-hoc analysis to determine the best algorithm for determining CIMT using data from the METEOR study, a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the effect of rosuvastatin on CIMT progression in 984 low coronary heart disease risk individuals with increased CIMT.
CIMT information was collected from two walls (near and far wall), three segments (common carotid, bifurcation and internal carotid artery), five different angles (for the right carotid artery - 60, 90, 120, 150, and 180 degrees on the Meijer's carotid arc; for the left - 300, 270, 240, 210, and 180 degrees) of two sides (left and right carotid artery), resulting in possibly (2 × 3 × 5 × 2 =) 60 measurements. On the basis of combinations of these measurements, we built 66 different ultrasound protocols to estimate a CIMT for each individual (22 protocols for mean common CIMT, 44 protocols for mean maximum CIMT). For each protocol we assessed reproducibility [intraclass correlation (ICC), mean difference of duplicate scans], 2-year progression rate in the placebo group with its corresponding standard error and treatment effect (difference in CIMT progression between rosuvastatin and placebo) and its corresponding standard error.
Data of duplicate ultrasound examinations at baseline and end of study were available for 688 participants (70% of 984). The ICC based on duplicate baseline examinations ranged from 0.81 to 0.95. CIMT progression rates in the placebo group ranged from 0.0046 to 0.0177 mm/year, with SE ranging from 0.00134 to 0.00337. Treatment effects ranged from 0.0141 to 0.0388 mm/year. The protocols with highest reproducibility, highest CIMT progression/precision ratio and highest treatment effect/precision ratio were those measuring both near and far wall for at least two angles.
Ultrasound protocols that include CIMT measurements at multiple angles of both near and far wall give the best balance between reproducibility, rate of CIMT progression, treatment effect and their associated precision in this low-risk population with subclinical atherosclerosis.
"Several studies suggest the CCA far wall as the best location in terms of feasibility and reproducibility of C-IMT measure [31,32]. Nevertheless, it has been also suggested C-IMT measurements at multiple angles of both the near and far walls might provide the best balance between reproducibility, rate of C-IMT progression, treatment effect and their associated precision in this low-risk population with subclinical atherosclerosis . "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The identification of vascular alterations at the sub-clinical, asymptomatic stages are potentially useful for screening, prevention and improvement of cardiovascular risk stratification beyond classical risk factors.
Increased intima-media thickness of the common carotid artery is a well-known marker of early atherosclerosis, which significantly correlates with the development of cardiovascular diseases. More recently, other vascular parameters evaluating both structural and functional arterial proprieties of peripheral arteries have been introduced, for cardiovascular risk stratification and as surrogate endpoints in clinical trials. Increased arterial stiffness, which can be detected by applanation tonometry as carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity, has been shown to predict future cardiovascular events and to significantly improve risk stratification.
Finally, earlier vascular abnormalities such as endothelial dysfunction in the peripheral arteries, detected as reduced flow-mediated dilation of the brachial artery, are useful in the research setting and as surrogate endpoints in clinical trials and have also been suggested for their possible clinical use in the future.
This manuscript will briefly review clinical evidence supporting the use of these different vascular markers for cardiovascular risk stratification, focusing on the correct methodology, which is a crucial issue to address in order to promote their use in future for routine clinical practice.
"Indeed, there are examples of therapies that proved to be effective in morbidity and mortality studies that failed to show an intervention effect on the CIMT of the common carotid artery whereas a beneficial effect was found on the CIMT endpoint that included the carotid bifurcation and the internal carotid artery.15 Recent studies that were set out to determine the best ultrasound protocol in terms of carotid segments to be included and showed mixed results.14,21,22 Measuring the near and far wall of the common carotid artery at multiple angles alone was superior to also measuring the carotid bifurcation and internal carotid artery in healthy individuals and in familial hypercholesterolemia patients, whereas the three segment approach was superior to the common carotid artery approach alone in individuals with mixed dyslipidemia and asymptomatic subclinical atherosclerosis. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) measurements have been widely used as primary endpoint in studies into the effects of new interventions as alternative for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. There are no accepted standards on the use of CIMT measurements in intervention studies and choices in the design and analysis of a CIMT study are generally based on experience and expert opinion. In the present review, we provide an overview of the current evidence on several aspects in the design and analysis of a CIMT study on the early effects of new interventions.
A balanced evaluation of the carotid segments, carotid walls, and image view to be used as CIMT study endpoint; the reading method (manual or semi-automated and continuously or in batch) to be employed, the required sample size, and the frequency of ultrasound examinations is provided. We also discuss the preferred methods to analyse longitudinal CIMT data and address the possible impact of, and methods to deal with missing and biologically implausible CIMT values.
Linear mixed effects models are the preferred way to analyse CIMT data and do appropriately handle missing and biologically implausible CIMT values. Furthermore, we recommend to use extensive CIMT designs that measure CIMT at regular points during the multiple carotid sites as such approach is likely to increase the success rates of CIMT intervention studies designed to evaluate the effects of new interventions on atherosclerotic burden.
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