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1.  Coronary CT Angiography in Managing Atherosclerosis 
Invasive coronary angiography (ICA) was the only method to image coronary arteries for a long time and is still the gold-standard. Technology of noninvasive imaging by coronary computed-tomography angiography (CCTA) has experienced remarkable progress during the last two decades. It is possible to visualize atherosclerotic lesions in the vessel wall in contrast to “lumenography” performed by ICA. Coronary artery disease can be ruled out by CCTA with excellent accuracy. The degree of stenoses is, however, often overestimated which impairs specificity. Atherosclerotic lesions can be characterized as calcified, non-calcified and partially calcified. Calcified plaques are usually quantified using the Agatston-Score. Higher scores are correlated with worse cardiovascular outcome and increased risk of cardiac events. For non-calcified or partially calcified plaques different angiographic findings like positive remodelling, a large necrotic core or spotty calcification more frequently lead to myocardial infarctions. CCTA is an important tool with increasing clinical value for ruling out coronary artery disease or relevant stenoses as well as for advanced risk stratification.
PMCID: PMC4346923  PMID: 25671814
atherosclerosis; coronary plaques; coronary computed-tomography angiography (CCTA); coronary calcium; cardiac events
2.  Progression of coronary artery calcification seems to be inevitable, but predictable - results of the Heinz Nixdorf Recall (HNR) study† 
European Heart Journal  2014;35(42):2960-2971.
Coronary artery calcification (CAC), as a sign of atherosclerosis, can be detected and progression quantified using computed tomography (CT). We develop a tool for predicting CAC progression.
Methods and results
In 3481 participants (45–74 years, 53.1% women) CAC percentiles at baseline (CACb) and after five years (CAC5y) were evaluated, demonstrating progression along gender-specific percentiles, which showed exponentially shaped age-dependence. Using quantile regression on the log-scale (log(CACb+1)) we developed a tool to individually predict CAC5y, and compared to observed CAC5y. The difference between observed and predicted CAC5y (log-scale, mean±SD) was 0.08±1.11 and 0.06±1.29 in men and women. Agreement reached a kappa-value of 0.746 (95% confidence interval: 0.732–0.760) and concordance correlation (log-scale) of 0.886 (0.879–0.893). Explained variance of observed by predicted log(CAC5y+1) was 80.1% and 72.0% in men and women, and 81.0 and 73.6% including baseline risk factors. Evaluating the tool in 1940 individuals with CACb>0 and CACb<400 at baseline, of whom 242 (12.5%) developed CAC5y>400, yielded a sensitivity of 59.5%, specificity 96.1%, (+) and (−) predictive values of 68.3% and 94.3%. A pre-defined acceptance range around predicted CAC5y contained 68.1% of observed CAC5y; only 20% were expected by chance. Age, blood pressure, lipid-lowering medication, diabetes, and smoking contributed to progression above the acceptance range in men and, excepting age, in women.
CAC nearly inevitably progresses with limited influence of cardiovascular risk factors. This allowed the development of a mathematical tool for prediction of individual CAC progression, enabling anticipation of the age when CAC thresholds of high risk are reached.
PMCID: PMC4223611  PMID: 25062951
Coronary artery calcification; Progression of atherosclerosis; CT; Imaging; Heinz Nixdorf Recall study; Epidemiology
3.  The Adverse Events and Hemodynamic Effects of Adenosine-Based Cardiac MRI 
Korean Journal of Radiology  2011;12(4):424-430.
We wanted to prospectively assess the adverse events and hemodynamic effects associated with an intravenous adenosine infusion in patients with suspected or known coronary artery disease and who were undergoing cardiac MRI.
Materials and Methods
One hundred and sixty-eight patients (64 ± 9 years) received adenosine (140 µg/kg/min) during cardiac MRI. Before and during the administration, the heart rate, systemic blood pressure, and oxygen saturation were monitored using a MRI-compatible system. We documented any signs and symptoms of potential adverse events.
In total, 47 out of 168 patients (28%) experienced adverse effects, which were mostly mild or moderate. In 13 patients (8%), the adenosine infusion was discontinued due to intolerable dyspnea or chest pain. No high grade atrioventricular block, bronchospasm or other life-threatening adverse events occurred. The hemodynamic measurements showed a significant increase in the heart rate during adenosine infusion (69.3 ± 11.7 versus 82.4 ± 13.0 beats/min, respectively; p < 0.001). A significant but clinically irrelevant increase in oxygen saturation occurred during adenosine infusion (96 ± 1.9% versus 97 ± 1.3%, respectively; p < 0.001). The blood pressure did not significantly change during adenosine infusion (systolic: 142.8 ± 24.0 versus 140.9 ± 25.7 mmHg; diastolic: 80.2 ± 12.5 mmHg versus 78.9 ± 15.6, respectively).
This study confirms the safety of adenosine infusion during cardiac MRI. A considerable proportion of all patients will experience minor adverse effects and some patients will not tolerate adenosine infusion. However, all adverse events can be successfully managed by a radiologist. The increased heart rate during adenosine infusion highlights the need to individually adjust the settings according to the patient, e.g., the number of slices of myocardial perfusion imaging.
PMCID: PMC3150669  PMID: 21852902
MRI; Adenosine; Coronary artery disease; Hemodynamics; Adverse events
4.  Non‐invasive screening for coronary artery disease: calcium scoring 
Heart  2007;93(12):1620-1629.
PMCID: PMC2095743  PMID: 18003695
5.  Use of automatic exposure control in multislice computed tomography of the coronaries: comparison of 16‐slice and 64‐slice scanner data with conventional coronary angiography 
Heart  2007;93(9):1040-1043.
To evaluate the radiation‐dose‐reduction potential of automatic exposure control (AEC) in 16‐slice and 64‐slice multislice computed tomography (MSCT) of the coronary arteries (computed tomography angiography, CTA) in patients. The rapid growth in MSCT CTA emphasises the necessity of adjusting technique factors to reduce radiation dose exposure.
A retrospective data analysis was performed for 154 patients who had undergone MSCT CTA. Group 1 (n = 56) had undergone 16‐slice MSCT without AEC, and group 2 (n = 51), with AEC. In group 1, invasive coronary angiography (ICA) had been performed in addition. Group 3 (n = 47) had been examined using a 64‐slice scanner (with AEC, without ECG‐triggered tube current modulation).
In group 1, the mean (SD) effective dose (ED) for MSCT CTA was 9.76 (1.84) mSv and for ICA it was 2.6 (1.27) mSv. In group 2, the mean ED for MSCT CTA was 5.83 (1.73) mSv, which signifies a 42.8% dose reduction for CTA by the use of AEC. In comparison to ICA, MSCT CTA without AEC shows a 3.8‐fold increase in radiation dose, and the radiation dose of CTA with AEC was increased by a factor of 1.9. In group 3, the mean ED for MSCT CTA was 13.58 (2.80) mSV.
This is the first study to show the significant dose‐reduction potential (42.8%) of AEC in MSCT CTA in patients. This relatively new technique can be used to optimise the radiation dose levels in MSCT CTA.
PMCID: PMC1955015  PMID: 17395667
6.  Chronic Residential Exposure to Particulate Matter Air Pollution and Systemic Inflammatory Markers 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2009;117(8):1302-1308.
Long-term exposure to urban air pollution may accelerate atherogenesis, but mechanisms are still unclear. The induction of a low-grade systemic inflammatory state is a plausible mechanistic pathway. Objectives: We analyzed the association of residential long-term exposure to particulate matter (PM) and high traffic with systemic inflammatory markers.
We used baseline data from the German Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study, a population-based, prospective cohort study of 4,814 participants that started in 2000. Fine PM [aerodynamic diameter ≤ 2.5 μm (PM2.5)] exposure based on a small-scale dispersion and chemistry transport model was assigned to each home address. We calculated distances between residences and major roads. Long-term exposure to air pollution (annual PM2.5 and distance to high traffic) and concentration of inflammatory markers [high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) and fibrinogen] on the day of the baseline visit were analyzed with sex-stratified multiple linear regression, controlling for individual-level risk factors.
In the adjusted analysis, a cross-sectional exposure difference of 3.91 μg/m3 in PM2.5 (interdecile range) was associated with increases in hs-CRP of 23.9% [95% confidence interval (CI), 4.1 to 47.4%] and fibrinogen of 3.9% (95% CI, 0.3 to 7.7%) in men, whereas we found no association in women. Chronic traffic exposure was not associated with inflammatory markers. Short-term exposures to air pollutants and temperature did not influence the results markedly.
Our study indicates that long-term residential exposure to high levels of PM2.5 is associated with systemic inflammatory markers in men. This might provide a link between air pollution and coronary atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC2721876  PMID: 19672412
air quality; cardiovascular disease; epidemiology; inflammation; roadway proximity
7.  Comparison of Subclinical Coronary Atherosclerosis and Risk Factors in Unselected Populations in Germany and US-America 
Atherosclerosis  2007;195(1):e207-e216.
On the basis of the Framingham risk algorithm, overestimation of clinical events has been reported in some European populations. Electron-beam computed tomography-derived quantification of coronary artery calcification (CAC) allows for noninvasive assessment of coronary atherosclerosis in the general population and may thus add important in vivo information on the path from risk factor exposure to formation of clinical events. The current study was undertaken to compare the relationship between risk factors and subclinical coronary atherosclerosis between non-Hispanic white cohorts in Germany and US-America, the hypothesis being that subclinical coronary atherosclerosis might be less prevalent in Europe at the same level of classical risk factor exposure.
The Heinz Nixdorf Recall (HNR) study, conducted in the German Ruhr area and the Epidemiology of Coronary Calcification (ECAC) study, conducted in Olmsted County, Minnesota, both recruited large unselected cohorts, men and women aged 45 – 74 years, from the general population. All subjects with no history of coronary artery disease (CAD) or stroke were included (n = 3,120 in HNR, n = 703 in ECAC). Coronary risk factors were assessed by personal and computer-assisted interviews and direct laboratory measurements. Cardiovascular medication use (antihypertensive, lipid-lowering, and anti-diabetic) was noted. CAC scores were determined using the Agatston method in an identical fashion in both studies.
Adverse levels of risk factors were more prevalent, and the Framingham risk score was higher (10.6 ± 7.6 vs. 9.3 ± 7.1, p < 0.001) in HNR than ECAC, respectively. There was no difference in body mass index (BMI). CAC scores were greater in HNR than in ECAC (mean values, 155.7 ± 423.0 versus 107.2 ± 280.0; median values, 11.9 versus 2.4; p < 0.001, respectively). When subjects were matched on CAD risk factors, presence and quantity of CAC were similar in the 2 cohorts. Risk factors significantly associated with CAC score in both studies included: age, male sex, current and former smoking, systolic blood pressure, and non HDL-cholesterol. Inferences were similar after excluding subjects using lipid- or blood pressure-lowering medications. Using the same risk factor variables for modelling, the predicted CAC scores were comparable in both cohorts.
In the higher-risk German cohort, presence and quantity of CAC were greater than in the lower-risk US-American cohort. Risk factor associations, however, with CAC were very similar in both unselected populations. As opposed to studies concerning clinical endpoints, we could not demonstrate a relative increase in subclinical coronary atherosclerosis in the US-American cohort.
PMCID: PMC2293130  PMID: 17532322
8.  Signs of subclinical coronary atherosclerosis in relation to risk factor distribution in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (HNR) 
European Heart Journal  2008;29(22):2782-2791.
Modern imaging technology allows us the visualization of coronary artery calcification (CAC), a marker of subclinical coronary atherosclerosis. The prevalence, quantity, and risk factors for CAC were compared between two studies with similar imaging protocols but different source populations: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (HNR).
Methods and results
The measured CAC in 2220 MESA participants were compared with those in 3126 HNR participants with the inclusion criteria such as age 45–75 years, Caucasian race, and free of baseline cardiovascular disease. Despite similar mean levels of CAC of 244.6 among participants in MESA and of 240.3 in HNR (P = 0.91), the prevalence of CAC > 0 was lower in MESA (52.6%) compared with HNR (67.0%) with a prevalence rate ratio of CAC > 0 of 0.78 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.72–0.85] after adjustment for known risk factors. Consequently, among participants with CAC > 0, the participants in MESA tended to have higher levels of CAC than those in HNR (ratio of CAC levels: 1.39; 95% CI: 1.19–1.63), since many HNR participants have small (near zero) CAC values.
The CAC prevalence was lower in the United States (MESA) cohort than in the German (HNR) cohort, which may be explained by more favourable risk factor levels among the MESA participants. The predictors for increased levels of CAC were, however, similar in both cohorts with the exception that male gender, blood pressure, and body mass index were more strongly associated in the HNR cohort.
PMCID: PMC2582985  PMID: 18845666
Epidemiology; Atherosclerosis; Coronary artery calcium; Risk factors; Screening

Results 1-8 (8)