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1.  Mönckeberg's sclerosis – is the artery the only target of calcification? 
Background
Since its first description, Mönckeberg's sclerosis has only been related to arterial media calcification, being listed among the primary diseases of the vessels.
Case presentation
We report here a clinically and histologically confirmed case of Mönckeberg's sclerosis in which the patient presented with massive areas of soft tissue calcifications in the pharynx and larynx. Polysomnographic parameters showed severe obstructive apnea refractory to nasal continuous positive airway pressure. Clinical and laboratory findings excluded concomitant endocrine or rheumatological diseases.
Conclusion
Our data provide a new insight about Mönckeberg's sclerosis, i.e., the fact that the etiopathogenic process involved in the phenomenon of calcification may not be restricted only to the arteries, but may occur in the entire organism. Further studies of the etiopathogenesis of this disease are needed.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-34
PMCID: PMC1326214  PMID: 16343348
2.  Cardiovascular disease, risk factors and heart rate variability in the elderly general population: Design and objectives of the CARdiovascular disease, Living and Ageing in Halle (CARLA) Study 
Background
The increasing burden of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in the ageing population of industrialized nations requires an intensive search for means of reducing this epidemic. In order to improve prevention, detection, therapy and prognosis of cardiovascular diseases on the population level in Eastern Germany, it is necessary to examine reasons for the East-West gradient of CVD morbidity and mortality, potential causal mechanisms and prognostic factors in the elderly.
Psychosocial and nutritional factors have previously been discussed as possible causes for the unexplained part of the East-West gradient. A reduced heart rate variability appears to be associated with cardiovascular disease as well as with psychosocial and other cardiovascular risk factors and decreases with age. Nevertheless, there is a lack of population-based data to examine the role of heart rate variability and its interaction with psychosocial and nutritional factors regarding the effect on cardiovascular disease in the ageing population. There also is a paucity of epidemiological data describing the health situation in Eastern Germany. Therefore, we conduct a population-based study to examine the distribution of CVD, heart rate variability and CVD risk factors and their associations in an elderly East German population. This paper describes the design and objectives of the CARLA Study.
Methods/design
For this study, a random sample of 45–80 year-old inhabitants of the city of Halle (Saale) in Eastern Germany was drawn from the population registry. By the end of the baseline examination (2002–2005), 1750 study participants will have been examined. A multi-step recruitment strategy aims at achieving a 70 % response rate.
Detailed information is collected on own and family medical history, socioeconomic, psychosocial, behavioural and biomedical factors. Medical examinations include anthropometric measures, blood pressure of arm and ankle, a 10-second and a 20-minute electrocardiogram, a general physical examination, an echocardiogram, and laboratory analyses of venous blood samples. On 200 participants, a 24-hour electrocardiogram is recorded. A detailed system of quality control ensures high data quality. A follow-up examination is planned.
Discussion
This study will help to elucidate pathways to CVD involving autonomic dysfunction and lifestyle factors which might be responsible for the CVD epidemic in some populations.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-33
PMCID: PMC1299322  PMID: 16283930
3.  EDTA chelation therapy for cardiovascular disease: a systematic review 
Background
Numerous practitioners of both conventional and complementary and alternative medicine throughout North America and Europe claim that chelation therapy with EDTA is an effective means to both control and treat cardiovascular disease. These claims are controversial, and several randomized controlled trials have been completed dealing with this topic. To address this issue we conducted a systematic review to evaluate the best available evidence for the use of EDTA chelation therapy in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.
Methods
We conducted a systematic review of 7 databases from inception to May 2005. Hand searches were conducted in review articles and in any of the trials found. Experts in the field were contacted and registries of clinical trials were searched for unpublished data. To be included in the final systematic review, the studies had to be randomized controlled clinical trials.
Results
A total of seven articles were found assessing EDTA chelation for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Two of these articles were subgroup analyses of one RCT that looked at different clinical outcomes. Of the remaining five studies, two smaller studies found a beneficial effect whereas the other three exhibited no benefit for cardiovascular disease from the use of EDTA chelation therapy. Adverse effects were rare but those of note included a few cases of hypocalcemia and a single case of increased creatinine in a patient on the EDTA intervention.
Conclusion
The best available evidence does not support the therapeutic use of EDTA chelation therapy in the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Although not considered to be a highly invasive or harmful therapy, it is possible that the use of EDTA chelation therapy in lieu of proven therapy may result in causing indirect harm to the patient.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-32
PMCID: PMC1282574  PMID: 16262904
4.  Medical concepts related to individual risk are better explained with "plausibility" rather than "probability" 
Background
The concept of risk has pervaded medical literature in the last decades and has become a familiar topic, and the concept of probability, linked to binary logic approach, is commonly applied in epidemiology and clinical medicine. The application of probability theory to groups of individuals is quite straightforward but can pose communication challenges at individual level. Few articles by the way have tried to focus the concept of "risk" at the individual subject level rather than at population level.
Discussion
The author has reviewed the conceptual framework which has led to the use of probability theory in the medical field in a time when the principal causes of death were represented by acute disease often of infective origin.
In the present scenario, in which chronic degenerative disease dominate and there are smooth transitions between health and disease the use of fuzzy logic rather than binary logic would be more appropriate. The use of fuzzy logic in which more than two possible truth-value assignments are allowed overcomes the trap of probability theory when dealing with uncertain outcomes, thereby making the meaning of a certain prognostic statement easier to understand by the patient.
Summary
At individual subject level the recourse to the term plausibility, related to fuzzy logic, would help the physician to communicate to the patient more efficiently in comparison with the term probability, related to binary logic. This would represent an evident advantage for the transfer of medical evidences to individual subjects.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-31
PMCID: PMC1262702  PMID: 16188041
5.  JTT-130, a microsomal triglyceride transfer protein (MTP) inhibitor lowers plasma triglycerides and LDL cholesterol concentrations without increasing hepatic triglycerides in guinea pigs 
Background
Microsomal transfer protein inhibitors (MTPi) have the potential to be used as a drug to lower plasma lipids, mainly plasma triglycerides (TG). However, studies with animal models have indicated that MTPi treatment results in the accumulation of hepatic TG. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether JTT-130, a unique MTPi, targeted to the intestine, would effectively reduce plasma lipids without inducing a fatty liver.
Methods
Male guinea pigs (n = 10 per group) were used for this experiment. Initially all guinea pigs were fed a hypercholesterolemic diet containing 0.08 g/100 g dietary cholesterol for 3 wk. After this period, animals were randomly assigned to diets containing 0 (control), 0.0005 or 0.0015 g/100 g of MTPi for 4 wk. A diet containing 0.05 g/100 g of atorvastatin, an HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor was used as the positive control. At the end of the 7th week, guinea pigs were sacrificed to assess drug effects on plasma and hepatic lipids, composition of LDL and VLDL, hepatic cholesterol and lipoprotein metabolism.
Results
Plasma LDL cholesterol and TG were 25 and 30% lower in guinea pigs treated with MTPi compared to controls (P < 0.05). Atorvastatin had the most pronounced hypolipidemic effects with a 35% reduction in LDL cholesterol and 40% reduction in TG. JTT-130 did not induce hepatic lipid accumulation compared to controls. Cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) activity was reduced in a dose dependent manner by increasing doses of MTPi and guinea pigs treated with atorvastatin had the lowest CETP activity (P < 0.01). In addition the number of molecules of cholesteryl ester in LDL and LDL diameter were lower in guinea pigs treated with atorvastatin. In contrast, hepatic enzymes involved in maintaining cholesterol homeostasis were not affected by drug treatment.
Conclusion
These results suggest that JTT-130 could have potential clinical applications due to its plasma lipid lowering effects with no alterations in hepatic lipid concentrations.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-30
PMCID: PMC1262701  PMID: 16188040
6.  Accuracy of popular automatic QT Interval algorithms assessed by a 'Gold Standard' and comparison with a Novel method: computer simulation study 
Background
Accurate measurement of the QT interval is very important from a clinical and pharmaceutical drug safety screening perspective. Expert manual measurement is both imprecise and imperfectly reproducible, yet it is used as the reference standard to assess the accuracy of current automatic computer algorithms, which thus produce reproducible but incorrect measurements of the QT interval. There is a scientific imperative to evaluate the most commonly used algorithms with an accurate and objective 'gold standard' and investigate novel automatic algorithms if the commonly used algorithms are found to be deficient.
Methods
This study uses a validated computer simulation of 8 different noise contaminated ECG waveforms (with known QT intervals of 461 and 495 ms), generated from a cell array using Luo-Rudy membrane kinetics and the Crank-Nicholson method, as a reference standard to assess the accuracy of commonly used QT measurement algorithms. Each ECG contaminated with 39 mixtures of noise at 3 levels of intensity was first filtered then subjected to three threshold methods (T1, T2, T3), two T wave slope methods (S1, S2) and a Novel method. The reproducibility and accuracy of each algorithm was compared for each ECG.
Results
The coefficient of variation for methods T1, T2, T3, S1, S2 and Novel were 0.36, 0.23, 1.9, 0.93, 0.92 and 0.62 respectively. For ECGs of real QT interval 461 ms the methods T1, T2, T3, S1, S2 and Novel calculated the mean QT intervals(standard deviations) to be 379.4(1.29), 368.5(0.8), 401.3(8.4), 358.9(4.8), 381.5(4.6) and 464(4.9) ms respectively. For ECGs of real QT interval 495 ms the methods T1, T2, T3, S1, S2 and Novel calculated the mean QT intervals(standard deviations) to be 396.9(1.7), 387.2(0.97), 424.9(8.7), 386.7(2.2), 396.8(2.8) and 493(0.97) ms respectively. These results showed significant differences between means at >95% confidence level. Shifting ECG baselines caused large errors of QT interval with T1 and T2 but no error with Novel.
Conclusion
The algorithms T2, T1 and Novel gave low coefficients of variation for QT measurement. The Novel technique gave the most accurate measurement of QT interval, T3 (a differential threshold method) was the next most accurate by a large margin. The objective and accurate 'gold standard' presented in this paper may be useful to assess new QT measurement algorithms. The Novel algorithm may prove to be more accurate and reliable method to measure the QT interval.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-29
PMCID: PMC1262700  PMID: 16185361
7.  Characteristic wave detection in ECG signal using morphological transform 
Background
Detection of characteristic waves, such as QRS complex, P wave and T wave, is one of the essential tasks in the cardiovascular arrhythmia recognition from Electrocardiogram (ECG).
Methods
A multiscale morphological derivative (MMD) transform-based singularity detector, is developed for the detection of fiducial points in ECG signal, where these points are related to the characteristic waves such as the QRS complex, P wave and T wave. The MMD detector is constructed by substituting the conventional derivative with a multiscale morphological derivative.
Results
We demonstrated through experiments that the Q wave, R peak, S wave, the onsets and offsets of the P wave and T wave could be reliably detected in the multiscale space by the MMD detector. Compared with the results obtained via with wavelet transform-based and adaptive thresholding-based techniques, an overall better performance by the MMD method was observed.
Conclusion
The developed MMD method exhibits good potentials for automated ECG signal analysis and cardiovascular arrhythmia recognition.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-28
PMCID: PMC1266028  PMID: 16171531
8.  A common variant of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (Glu298Asp) is associated with collateral development in patients with chronic coronary occlusions 
Background
Experimental studies support an important role for endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) in the regulation of angiogenesis. In humans, a common polymorphism exists in the eNOS gene that results in the conversion of glutamate to aspartate for codon 298. In vitro and in vivo studies have suggested a decreased NOS activity in patients with the Asp298 variant. We hypothesized that a genetic-mediated decreased eNOS activity may limit collateral development in patients with chronic coronary occlusions.
Methods
We selected 291 consecutive patients who underwent coronary angiography and who had at least one chronic (>15 days) total coronary occlusion. Collateral development was graded angiographically using two different methods: the collateral flow grade and the recipient filling grade. Genomic DNA was extracted from white blood cells and genotyping was performed using previously published techniques.
Results
Collateral development was lower in patients carrying the Asp298 variant than in Glu-Glu homozygotes (collateral flow grade: 2.64 ± 0.08 and 2.89 ± 0.08, respectively, p = 0.04; recipient filling grade: 3.00 ± 0.08 and 3.24 ± 0.07, respectively, p = 0.04). By multivariable analysis, three variables were independently associated with the collateral flow grade: female gender, smoking, and the Asp298 variant (p = 0.03) while the Asp298 variant was the sole variable independently associated with the recipient filling grade (p = 0.03).
Conclusion
Collateral development is lower in patients with the Asp298 variant. This may be explained by the decreased NOS activity in patients with the Asp298 variant. Further studies will have to determine whether increasing eNOS activity in humans is associated with coronary collateral development.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-27
PMCID: PMC1239913  PMID: 16164743
9.  The "lipid accumulation product" performs better than the body mass index for recognizing cardiovascular risk: a population-based comparison 
Background
Body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) may not be the best marker for estimating the risk of obesity-related disease. Consistent with physiologic observations, an alternative index uses waist circumference (WC) and fasting triglycerides (TG) concentration to describe lipid overaccumulation.
Methods
The WC (estimated population minimum 65 cm for men and 58 cm for women) and TG concentration from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (N = 9,180, statistically weighted to represent 100.05 million US adults) were used to compute a "lipid accumulation product" [LAP = (WC-65) × TG for men and (WC-58) × TG for women] and to describe the population distribution of LAP. LAP and BMI were compared as categorical variables and as log-transformed continuous variables for their ability to identify adverse levels of 11 cardiovascular risk factors.
Results
Nearly half of the represented population was discordant for their quartile assignments to LAP and BMI. When 23.54 million with ordinal LAP quartile > BMI quartile were compared with 25.36 million with ordinal BMI quartile > LAP quartile (regression models adjusted for race-ethnicity and sex) the former had more adverse risk levels than the latter (p < 0.002) for seven lipid variables, uric acid concentration, heart rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Further adjustment for age did not materially alter these comparisons except for blood pressures (p > 0.1). As continuous variables, LAP provided a consistently more adverse beta coefficient (slope) than BMI for nine cardiovascular risk variables (p < 0.01), but not for blood pressures (p > 0.2).
Conclusion
LAP (describing lipid overaccumulation) performed better than BMI (describing weight overaccumulation) for identifying US adults at cardiovascular risk. Compared to BMI, LAP might better predict the incidence of cardiovascular disease, but this hypothesis needs prospective testing.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-26
PMCID: PMC1236917  PMID: 16150143
10.  Regulation and splicing of scavenger receptor class B type I in human macrophages and atherosclerotic plaques 
Background
The protective role of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in the cardiovascular system is related to its role in the reverse transport of cholesterol from the arterial wall to the liver for subsequent excretion via the bile. Scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI) binds HDL and mediates selective uptake of cholesterol ester and cellular efflux of cholesterol to HDL. The role of SR-BI in atherosclerosis has been well established in murine models but it remains unclear whether SR-BI plays an equally important role in atherosclerosis in humans. The aim of this study was to investigate the expression of SR-BI and its isoforms in human macrophages and atherosclerotic plaques.
Methods
The effect of hypoxia and minimally modified low-density lipoprotein (mmLDL), two proatherogenic stimuli, on SR-BI expression was studied in human monocyte-derived macrophages from healthy subjects using real-time PCR. In addition, SR-BI expression was determined in macrophages obtained from subjects with atherosclerosis (n = 15) and healthy controls (n = 15). Expression of SR-BI isoforms was characterized in human atherosclerotic plaques and macrophages using RT-PCR and DNA sequencing.
Results
SR-BI expression was decreased in macrophages after hypoxia (p < 0.005). In contrast, SR-BI expression was increased by exposure to mmLDL (p < 0.05). There was no difference in SR-BI expression in macrophages from patients with atherosclerosis compared to controls. In both groups, SR-BI expression was increased by exposure to mmLDL (p < 0.05). Transcripts corresponding to SR-BI and SR-BII were detected in macrophages. In addition, a third isoform, referred to as SR-BIII, was discovered. All three isoforms were also expressed in human atherosclerotic plaque. Compared to the other isoforms, the novel SR-BIII isoform was predicted to have a unique intracellular C-terminal domain containing 53 amino acids.
Conclusion
We conclude that SR-BI is regulated by proatherogenic stimuli in humans. However, we found no differences between subjects with atherosclerosis and healthy controls. This indicates that altered SR-BI expression is not a common cause of atherosclerosis. In addition, we identified SR-BIII as a novel isoform expressed in human macrophages and in human atherosclerotic plaques.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-25
PMCID: PMC1215476  PMID: 16122381
11.  PAIS: paracetamol (acetaminophen) in stroke; protocol for a randomized, double blind clinical trial. [ISCRTN 74418480] 
Background
In patients with acute stroke, increased body temperature is associated with large lesion volumes, high case fatality, and poor functional outcome. A 1°C increase in body temperature may double the odds of poor outcome. Two randomized double-blind clinical trials in patients with acute ischemic stroke have shown that treatment with a daily dose of 6 g acetaminophen (paracetamol) results in a small but rapid and potentially worthwhile reduction of 0.3°C (95% CI: 0.1–0.5) in body temperature. We set out to test the hypothesis that early antipyretic therapy reduces the risk of death or dependency in patients with acute stroke, even if they are normothermic.
Methods/design
Paracetamol (Acetaminophen) In Stroke (PAIS) is a randomized, double-blind clinical trial, comparing high-dose acetaminophen with placebo in 2500 patients. Inclusion criteria are a clinical diagnosis of hemorrhagic or ischemic stroke and the possibility to start treatment within 12 hours from onset of symptoms. The study will have a power of 86% to detect an absolute difference of 6% in the risk of death or dependency at three months, and a power of 72% to detect an absolute difference of 5%, at a 5% significance level.
Discussion
This is a simple trial, with a drug that only has a small effect on body temperature in normothermic patients. However, when lowering body temperature with acetaminophen does have the expected effectiveness, 20 patients will have to be treated to prevent dependency or death in one.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-24
PMCID: PMC1208871  PMID: 16109181
12.  Ventriculo-atrial gradient due to first degree atrio-ventricular block: a case report 
Background
Isolated, asymptomatic first degree AV block with narrow QRS has not prognostic significance and is not usually treated with pacemaker implantation. In some cases, yet, loss of AV synchrony because of a marked prolongation of the PR interval may cause important hemodynamic alterations, with subsequent symptoms of heart failure. Indeed, AV synchrony is crucial when atrial systole, the "atrial kick", contributes in a major way to left ventricular filling, as in case of reduced left ventricular compliance because of aging or concomitant structural heart disease.
Case presentation
We performed a trans-septal left atrium catheterization aimed at evaluating the entity of a mitral valve stenosis in a 72-year-old woman with a marked first-degree AV block, a known moderate aortic stenosis and NYHA class III symptoms of functional deterioration. We occurred in a deep alteration in cardiac hemodynamics consisting in an end-diastolic ventriculo-atrial gradient without any evidence of mitral stenosis. The patient had a substantial improvement in echocardiographic parameters and in her symptoms of heart failure after permanent pacemaker implantation with physiological AV delay.
Conclusion
We conclude that if a marked first degree AV block is associated to instrumental signs or symptoms of heart failure, the restoration of an optimal AV synchrony, achieved with dual-chamber pacing, may represent a reasonable therapeutic option leading to a consequent clinical improvement.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-23
PMCID: PMC1199590  PMID: 16091145
13.  Sirolimus increases tissue factor expression but not activity in cultured human vascular smooth muscle cells 
Background
Sirolimus-eluting stents (CYPHER stents) demonstrated remarkable efficacy in reducing restenosis rates in patients with coronary artery disease. There is a concern of sub-acute and late stent thrombosis. Tissue factor (TF) is critical in thrombosis. This study investigated the effect of sirolimus on TF expression and activity in cultured human vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs).
Methods
SMCs were cultured from human saphenous veins and aortas. Quiescent cells were stimulated with sirolimus (0.1 – 20 ng/ml) over 24 hours. Cellular TF expression and activity released into culture medium were measured. The effect of sirolimus on activation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) was measured by phosphorylation of the substrate p70s6k at T389, and activation of RhoA was measured by pull-down assay.
Results
Sirolimus increased TF protein level in cultured human SMCs in a concentration and time-dependent manner (about 2-fold, p < 0.01) reaching maximal effect at 5 ng/ml. The stimulation of TF expression by sirolimus was associated with inhibition of basal activity of mTOR. No effects of sirolimus on RhoA or p38mapk activation that are positive regulators of TF in vascular wall cells were observed. The stimulation of TF expression by sirolimus (20 ng/ml) was prevented by the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor fluvastatin (1 μmol/L). However, no increase in TF activity released from SMC into culture medium was observed after sirolimus treatment.
Conclusion
Although sirolimus stimulates TF protein expression in human SMC associated with inhibition of mTOR, it does not enhance TF activity released from the cells, suggesting a relatively safe profile of CYPHER stents. The inhibition of TF expression by fluvastatin favors clinical use of statins in patients undergoing coronary stenting.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-22
PMCID: PMC1190166  PMID: 16018822
14.  Predictors and prognosis of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation in general practice in the UK 
Background
Natural history of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF) is not very well documented. Clinical experience suggests that paroxysmal AF could progress to chronic AF with estimates ranging between 15 and 30% over a period of 1–3 years. We performed an epidemiologic study to elucidate the natural history of paroxysmal AF, this study estimated its incidence in a general practice setting, identified associated factors and analyzed the progression into chronic AF as well as the mortality rate.
Methods
Using the UK General Practice Research Database (GPRD), we identified patients aged 40–89 years with a first-recorded episode of paroxysmal AF during 1996. Risk factors were assessed using 525 incident paroxysmal AF cases confirmed by the general practitioner (GP) and a random sample of controls. We follow-up paroxysmal AF patients and estimated their mortality rate and progression to chronic AF.
Results
The incidence of paroxysmal AF was 1.0 per 1,000 person-years. Major risk factors for paroxysmal AF were age and prior valvular heart disease, ischaemic heart disease, heart failure and hyperthyroidism. During a mean follow-up of 2.7 years, 70 of 418 paroxysmal AF patients with complete information progressed to chronic AF. Risk factors associated with progression were valvular heart disease (OR 2.7, 95% CI 1.2–6.0) and moderate to high alcohol consumption (OR 3.0, 95% CI 1.1–8.0). Paroxysmal AF patients did not carry an increased risk of mortality, compared to an age and sex matched sample of the general population. There was a suggestion of a small increased risk among patients progressing to chronic AF (RR 1.5, 96% CI 0.8–2.9).
Conclusion
Paroxysmal AF is a common arrhythmia in the general practice setting, increasing with age and commonly associated with other heart diseases. It sometimes is the initial presentation and then progress to chronic AF. A history of valvular heart disease and alcohol consumption are associated with this progression.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-20
PMCID: PMC1185525  PMID: 16008832
15.  Spatial variation in the management and outcomes of acute coronary syndrome 
Background
Regional disparities in medical care and outcomes with patients suffering from an acute coronary syndrome (ACS) have been reported and raise the need to a better understanding of links between treatment, care and outcomes. Little is known about the relationship and its spatial variability between invasive cardiac procedure (ICP), hospital death (HD), length of stay (LoS) and early hospital readmission (EHR). The objectives were to describe and compare the regional rates of ICP, HD, EHR, and the average LoS after an ACS in 2000 in the province of Quebec. We also assessed whether there was a relationship between ICP and HD, LoS, and EHR, and if the relationships varied spatially.
Methods
Using secondary data from a provincial hospital register, a population-based retrospective cohort of 24,544 patients hospitalized in Quebec (Canada) for an ACS in 2000 was built. ACS was defined as myocardial infarction (ICD-9: 410) or unstable angina (ICD-9: 411). ICP was defined as the presence of angiography, angioplasty or aortocoronary bypass (CCA: 480–483, 489), HD as all death cause at index hospitalization, LoS as the number of days between admission and discharge from the index hospitalization, and EHR as hospital readmission for a coronary heart disease ≤30 days after discharge from hospital. The EHR was evaluated on survivors at discharge.
Results
ICP rate was 43.7% varying from 29.4% to 51.6% according to regions. HD rate was 6.9% (range: 3.3–8.2%), average LoS was 11.5 days (range: 7.5–14.4; median LoS: 8 days) and EHR rate was 8.3% (range: 4.7–14.2%). ICP was positively associated with LoS and negatively with HD and EHR; the relationship between ICP and LoS varied spatially. An increased distance to a specialized cardiology center was associated with a decreased likelihood of ICP, a decrease in LoS, but an increased likelihood of EHR.
Conclusion
The main results of this study are the regional variability of the outcomes even after accounting for age, gender, ICP and distance to a cardiology center; the significant relationships between ICP and HD, LoS and EHR, and the spatial variability in the relationships between ICP and LoS.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-21
PMCID: PMC1181243  PMID: 16008836
16.  Are antifibrinolytic drugs equivalent in reducing blood loss and transfusion in cardiac surgery? A meta-analysis of randomized head-to-head trials 
Background
Aprotinin has been shown to be effective in reducing peri-operative blood loss and the need for re-operation due to continued bleeding in cardiac surgery. The lysine analogues tranexamic acid (TXA) and epsilon aminocaproic acid (EACA) are cheaper, but it is not known if they are as effective as aprotinin.
Methods
Studies were identified by searching electronic databases and bibliographies of published articles. Data from head-to-head trials were pooled using a conventional (Cochrane) meta-analytic approach and a Bayesian approach which estimated the posterior probability of TXA and EACA being equivalent to aprotinin; we used as a non-inferiority boundary a 20% increase in the rates of transfusion or re-operation because of bleeding.
Results
Peri-operative blood loss was significantly greater with TXA and EACA than with aprotinin: weighted mean differences were 106 mls (95% CI 37 to 227 mls) and 185 mls (95% CI 134 to 235 mls) respectively. The pooled relative risks (RR) of receiving an allogeneic red blood cell (RBC) transfusion with TXA and EACA, compared with aprotinin, were 1.08 (95% CI 0.88 to 1.32) and 1.14 (95% CI 0.84 to 1.55) respectively. The equivalent Bayesian posterior mean relative risks were 1.15 (95% Bayesian Credible Interval [BCI] 0.90 to 1.68) and 1.21 (95% BCI 0.79 to 1.82) respectively. For transfusion, using a 20% non-inferiority boundary, the posterior probabilities of TXA and EACA being non-inferior to aprotinin were 0.82 and 0.76 respectively. For re-operation the Cochrane RR for TXA vs. aprotinin was 0.98 (95% CI 0.51 to 1.88), compared with a posterior mean Bayesian RR of 0.63 (95% BCI 0.16 to 1.46). The posterior probability of TXA being non-inferior to aprotinin was 0.92, but this was sensitive to the inclusion of one small trial.
Conclusion
The available data are conflicting regarding the equivalence of lysine analogues and aprotinin in reducing peri-operative bleeding, transfusion and the need for re-operation. Decisions are sensitive to the choice of clinical outcome and non-inferiority boundary. The data are an uncertain basis for replacing aprotinin with the cheaper lysine analogues in clinical practice. Progress has been hampered by small trials and failure to study clinically relevant outcomes.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-19
PMCID: PMC1185524  PMID: 15992412
17.  The BpTRU automatic blood pressure monitor compared to 24 hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring in the assessment of blood pressure in patients with hypertension 
Background
Increasing evidence suggests that ABPM more closely predicts target organ damage than does clinic measurement. Future guidelines may suggest ABPM as routine in the diagnosis and monitoring of hypertension. This would create difficulties as this test is expensive and often difficult to obtain. The purpose of this study is to determine the degree to which the BpTRU automatic blood pressure monitor predicts results on 24 hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM).
Methods
A quantitative analysis comparing blood pressure measured by the BpTRU device with the mean daytime blood pressure on 24 hour ABPM. The study was conducted by the Centre for Studies in Primary Care, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada on adult primary care patients who are enrolled in two randomized controlled trials on hypertension. The main outcomes were the mean of the blood pressures measured at the three most recent office visits, the initial measurement on the BpTRU-100, the mean of the five measurements on the BpTRU monitor, and the daytime average on 24 hour ABPM.
Results
The group mean of the three charted clinic measured blood pressures (150.8 (SD10.26) / 82.9 (SD 8.44)) was not statistically different from the group mean of the initial reading on BpTRU (150.0 (SD21.33) / 83.3 (SD12.00)). The group mean of the average of five BpTRU readings (140.0 (SD17.71) / 79.8 (SD 10.46)) was not statistically different from the 24 hour daytime mean on ABPM (141.5 (SD 13.25) / 79.7 (SD 7.79)). Within patients, BpTRU average correlated significantly better with daytime ambulatory pressure than did clinic averages (BpTRU r = 0.571, clinic r = 0.145). Based on assessment of sensitivity and specificity at different cut-points, it is suggested that the initial treatment target using the BpTRU be set at <135/85 mmHG, but achievement of target should be confirmed using 24 hour ABPM.
Conclusion
The BpTRU average better predicts ABPM than does the average of the blood pressures recorded on the patient chart from the three most recent visits. The BpTRU automatic clinic blood pressure monitor should be used as an adjunct to ABPM to effectively diagnose and monitor hypertension.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-18
PMCID: PMC1173098  PMID: 15985180
18.  A cluster randomized trial to assess the impact of opinion leader endorsed evidence summaries on improving quality of prescribing for patients with chronic cardiovascular disease: rationale and design [ISRCTN26365328] 
Background
Although much has been written about the influence of local opinion leaders on clinical practice, there have been few controlled studies of their effect, and almost none have attempted to change prescribing in the community for chronic conditions such as heart failure (HF) or ischemic heart disease (IHD). These two conditions are common and there is very good evidence about how to best prevent morbidity and mortality – and good evidence that quality of care is, in general, suboptimal. Practice audits have demonstrated that about one-half of eligible HF patients are prescribed ACE inhibitors (with fewer still reaching appropriate target doses) and less than one-third of patients with established IHD are prescribed statins (with many fewer reaching recommended cholesterol targets). It is apparent that interventions to improve quality of prescribing are urgently needed. We hypothesized that an intervention that consisted of patient-specific one-page evidence summaries, generated and then endorsed by local opinion leaders, would be able to change prescribing practices of community-based primary care physicians.
Methods (study design)
A pragmatic single-centre cluster randomized controlled trial comparing an opinion leader-based intervention to usual care for patients with HF or IHD. Randomization will be clustered at the level of the primary care physician; as the design effect is anticipated to be negligible, the unit of analysis will be the patient. Patients with HF or IHD (not receiving ACE inhibitors or statins, respectively) will be recruited from community pharmacies and allocated to intervention or usual care based on the randomization status of their primary care physician. The primary outcome is improvement in prescription of proven efficacious therapies for HF (ACE inhibitors) or IHD (statins) within 6 months of the intervention.
Conclusion
If the methods used in this intervention are found to improve prescribing practices, similar interventions could be designed for other chronic conditions dealt with in the outpatient setting.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-17
PMCID: PMC1175844  PMID: 15982421
19.  The morbidity and mortality following a diagnosis of peripheral arterial disease: Long-term follow-up of a large database 
Background
Awareness of the significance of peripheral arterial disease is increasing, but quantitative estimates of the ensuing burden and the impact of other risk factors remains limited. The objective of this study was to fill this need.
Methods
Morbidity and mortality were examined in 16,440 index patients diagnosed with peripheral arterial disease in Saskatchewan, Canada between 1985 and 1995. Medical history and patient characteristics were available retrospectively to January 1980 and follow-up was complete to March 1998. Crude and adjusted event rates were calculated and Kaplan-Meier survival curves estimated. Cox proportional hazards analyses were conducted to examine the effect of risk factors on these rates. Patients suffering a myocardial infarction or ischemic stroke in Saskatchewan provided two reference populations.
Results
Half of the index patients were male; the majority was over age 65; 73% had at least one additional risk factor at index diagnosis; 10% suffered a subsequent stroke, another 10% a myocardial infarction, and 49% died within the mean follow-up of 5.9 years. Annual mortality (8.2%) was higher among patients with PAD than after a myocardial infarction (6.3%) but slightly lower than that in patients suffering a stroke (11.3%). Index patients with comorbid disease (e.g., diabetes) were at highest risk of death and other events.
Conclusion
A diagnosis of peripheral arterial disease is critical evidence of more widespread atherothrombotic disease, with substantial risks of subsequent cardiovascular events and death. Given that the majority has additional comorbidities, these risks are further increased.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-14
PMCID: PMC1183197  PMID: 15972099
20.  Peripheral arterial disease: A high risk – but neglected – disease population 
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a common, progressive manifestation of atherothrombotic vascular disease, which should be managed no different to cardiac disease. Indeed, there is growing evidence that PAD patients are a high risk group, although still relatively under-detected and under treated. This is despite the fact that PAD patients are an increased mortality rate comparable to those with pre-existing or established cardiovascular disease [myocardial infarction, stroke]. With a holistic approach to atherothrombotic vascular disease, our management of PAD can only get better.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-15
PMCID: PMC1166544  PMID: 15972103
21.  Determinants of racial/ethnic differences in blood pressure management among hypertensive patients 
Background
Prior literature has shown that racial/ethnic minorities with hypertension may receive less aggressive treatment for their high blood pressure. However, to date there are few data available regarding the confounders of racial/ethnic disparities in the intensity of hypertension treatment.
Methods
We reviewed the medical records of 1,205 patients who had a minimum of two hypertension-related outpatient visits to 12 general internal medicine clinics during 7/1/01-6/30/02. Using logistic regression, we determined the odds of having therapy intensified by patient race/ethnicity after adjustment for clinical characteristics.
Results
Blacks (81.9%) and Whites (80.3%) were more likely than Latinos (71.5%) to have therapy intensified (P = 0.03). After adjustment for racial differences in the number of outpatient visits and presence of diabetes, there were no racial differences in rates of intensification.
Conclusion
We found that racial/ethnic differences in therapy intensification were largely accounted for by differences in frequency of clinic visits and in the prevalence of diabetes. Given the higher rates of diabetes and hypertension related mortality among Hispanics in the U.S., future interventions to reduce disparities in cardiovascular outcomes should increase physician awareness of the need to intensify drug therapy more agressively in patients without waiting for multiple clinic visits, and should remind providers to treat hypertension more aggressively among diabetic patients.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-16
PMCID: PMC1173097  PMID: 15972095
22.  Determinants of persistence in hypertensive patients treated with irbesartan: results of a postmarketing survey 
Background
Persistence is a key factor for long-term blood pressure control, which is of high prognostic importance for patients at increased cardiovascular risk. Here we present the results of a post-marketing survey including 4769 hypertensive patients treated with irbesartan in 886 general practices in Switzerland. The goal of this survey was to evaluate the tolerance and the blood pressure lowering effect of irbesartan as well as the factors affecting persistence in a large unselected population.
Methods
Prospective observational survey conducted in general practices in all regions of Switzerland. Previously untreated and uncontrolled pre-treated patients were started with a daily dose of 150 mg irbesartan and followed up to 6 months.
Results
After an observation time slightly exceeding 4 months, the average reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure was 20 (95% confidence interval (CI) -19.6 to -20.7 mmHg) and 12 mmHg (95% CI -11.4 to -12.1 mmHg), respectively. At this time, 26% of patients had a blood pressure < 140/90 mmHg and 60% had a diastolic blood pressure < 90 mmHg. The drug was well tolerated with an incidence of adverse events (dizziness, headaches,...) of 8.0%. In this survey more than 80% of patients were still on irbesartan at 4 month. The most important factors predictive of persistence were the tolerability profile and the ability to achieve a blood pressure target ≤ 140/90 mmHg before visit 2. Patients who switched from a fixed combination treatment tended to discontinue irbesartan more often whereas those who abandoned the previous treatment because of cough (a class side effect of ACE-Inhibitors) were more persistent with irbesartan.
Conclusion
The results of this survey confirm that irbesartan is effective, well tolerated and well accepted by patients, as indicated by the good persistence. This post-marketing survey also emphasizes the importance of the tolerability profile and of achieving an early control of blood pressure as positive predictors of persistence.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-13
PMCID: PMC1166543  PMID: 15943871
23.  A systematic review of intravenous gamma globulin for therapy of acute myocarditis 
Background
Intravenous gamma globulin (IVGG) is commonly used in the management of acute myocarditis. The objective of this study was to systematically review the literature evaluating this practice.
Methods
We conducted a comprehensive search (electronic databases, trials registries, conference proceedings, reference lists, contact with authors) to identify studies evaluating the use of IVGG in adults and children with a clinical or histologically proven diagnosis of myocarditis of possible viral etiology and symptoms of less than six months duration. Two reviewers independently screened the searches, applied inclusion criteria, and graded the evidence.
Results
Results were described qualitatively; data were not pooled because only one randomized controlled trial (RCT) with 62 patients was identified. The RCT showed no benefit with respect to cardiac function, functional outcome, or event-free survival. A small, uncontrolled trial (n = 10) showed significant improvement in LVEF from a mean of 24% to 41% 12 months after IVGG in nine survivors. A retrospective cohort study of pediatric patients showed improvement in cardiac function and a trend towards improved survival in patients receiving IVGG (n = 21) versus historic controls (n = 25). Ten case reports and two case series (total n = 21) described improvement in cardiac function after administration of IVGG; two case reports showed no benefit of IVGG. One case of hemolytic anemia was attributed to IVGG.
Conclusion
There is insufficient data from methodologically strong studies to recommend routine use of IVGG for acute myocarditis. Future randomized studies that take into account the etiology of acute myocarditis will be required to determine the efficacy of IVGG.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-12
PMCID: PMC1173096  PMID: 15932639
24.  Antibiotics for the primary prevention of acute rheumatic fever: a meta-analysis 
Background
Rheumatic fever continues to put a significant burden on the health of low socio-economic populations in low and middle-income countries despite the near disappearance of the disease in the developed world over the past century. Antibiotics have long been thought of as an effective method for preventing the onset of acute rheumatic fever following a Group-A streptococcal (GAS) throat infection; however, their use has not been widely adopted in developing countries for the treatment of sore throats. We have used the tools of systematic review and meta-analysis to quantify the effectiveness of antibiotic treatment for sore throat, with symptoms suggestive of group A streptococcal (GAS) infection, for the primary prevention of acute rheumatic fever.
Methods
Trials were identified through a systematic search of titles and abstracts found in the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (Cochrane Library Issue 4, 2003), MEDLINE (1966–2003), EMBASE (1966–2003), and the reference lists of identified studies. The selection criteria included randomised or quasi-randomised controlled trials comparing the effectiveness of antibiotics versus no antibiotics for the prevention of rheumatic fever in patients presenting with a sore throat, with or without confirmation of GAS infection, and no history of rheumatic fever.
Results
Ten trials (n = 7665) were eligible for inclusion in this review. The methodological quality of the studies, in general, was poor. All of the included trials were conducted during the period of 1950 and 1961 and in 8 of the 10 trials the study population consisted of young adult males living on United States military bases. Fixed effects, meta-analysis revealed an overall protective effect for the use of antibiotics against acute rheumatic fever of 70% (RR = 0.32; 95% CI = 0.21–0.48). The absolute risk reduction was 1.67% with an NNT of 53. When meta-analysis was restricted to include only trials evaluating penicillin, a protective effect of 80% was found (Fixed effect RR = 0.20, 95% CI = 0.11–0.36) with an NNT of 60. The marginal cost of preventing one case of rheumatic fever by a single intramuscular injection of penicillin is approximately US$46 in South Africa.
Conclusion
Antibiotics appear to be effective in reducing the incidence of acute rheumatic fever following an episode of suspected GAS pharyngitis. This effect may be achieved at relatively low cost if a single intramuscular penicillin injection is administered.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-11
PMCID: PMC1164408  PMID: 15927077
25.  Prognostic value of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist gene polymorphism and cytomegalovirus seroprevalence in patients with coronary artery disease 
Background
Chronic inflammatory stimuli such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection and various genetic polymorphisms determining the inflammatory response are assumed to be important risk factors in atherosclerosis. We investigated whether patients with stable coronary artery disease (CAD) and homozygous for allele 2 of the interleukin 1 receptor antagonist (IL-1RA) gene and seropositive for CMV represent a group particular susceptible for recurrent cardiovascular events.
Methods
In a series of 300 consecutive patients with angiographically defined CAD a prospective follow-up was conducted (mean age 57.9 years, median follow-up time 38.2 months).
Results
No statistically significant relationship was found between CMV serostatus and IL-1RN*2 (alone or in combination) and risk for future cardiovascular events (CVE). The hazard ratio (HR) for a CVE given positive CMV-serology and IL-1RN*2 was 1.07 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.32–3.72) in the fully adjusted model compared to seronegative CMV patients not carrying the IL-1RN*2 allele. In this prospective cohort study involving 300 patients with angiographically defined CAD at baseline, homozygousity for allele 2 of the IL-1 RA and seropositivity to CMV alone and in combination were not associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular events during follow-up; in addition, combination of the CMV-seropositivity and IL-1RN*2 allele were not associated with a proinflammatory response
Conclusion
Our study suggests that seropositivity to CMV and IL-1RA*2 genotype alone or in combination might not be a strong risk factor for recurrent cardiovascular events in patients with manifest CAD, and is not associated with levels of established inflammatory markers.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-10
PMCID: PMC1156876  PMID: 15943888

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