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1.  Relationship between apolipoprotein(a) size polymorphism and coronary heart disease in overweight subjects 
Background
Overweight is associated with an increased cardiovascular risk which is only partially explained by conventional risk factors. The objective of this study was to evaluate lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)] plasma levels and apolipoprotein(a) [apo(a)] phenotypes in relation to coronary heart disease (CHD) in overweight subjects.
Methods
A total of 275 overweight (BMI ≥ 27 kg/m2) subjects, of which 155 had experienced a CHD event, 337 normal weight subjects with prior CHD and 103 CHD-free normal weight subjects were enrolled in the study. Lp(a) levels were determined by an ELISA technique and apo(a) isoforms were detected by a high-resolution immunoblotting method.
Results
Lp(a) levels were similar in the three study groups. Overweight subjects with CHD had Lp(a) concentrations significantly higher than those without [median (interquartile range): 20 (5–50.3) versus 12.6 (2.6–38.6) mg/dl, P < 0.05]. Furthermore, overweight subjects with CHD showed a higher prevalence of low molecular weight apo(a) isoforms than those without (55.5% versus 40.8%, P < 0.05) and with respect to the control group (55.5% versus 39.8%, P < 0.05). Stepwise regression analysis showed that apo(a) phenotypes, but not Lp(a) levels, entered the model as significant independent predictors of CHD in overweight subjects.
Conclusions
Our data indicate that small-sized apo(a) isoforms are associated with CHD in overweight subjects. The characterization of apo(a) phenotypes might serve as a reliable biomarker to better assess the overall CHD risk of each subject with elevated BMI, leading to more intensive treatment of modifiable cardiovascular risk factors.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-3-12
PMCID: PMC327094  PMID: 14670093
lipoprotein(a) concentration; apolipoprotein(a) isoforms; overweight; coronary heart disease; genetic markers
2.  Adipocyte-derived leucine aminopeptidase genotype and response to antihypertensive therapy 
Background
Adipocyte-derived leucine aminopeptidase (ALAP) is a recently identified member of the M1 family of zinc-metallopeptidases and is thought to play a role in blood pressure control through inactivation of angiotensin II and/or generation of bradykinin. The enzyme seems to be particularly abundant in the heart. Recently, the Arg528-encoding allele of the ALAP gene was shown to be associated with essential hypertension.
Methods
We evaluated the influence of this polymorphism on the change in left ventricular mass index in 90 patients with essential hypertension and echocardiographically diagnosed left ventricular hypertrophy, randomised in a double-blind study to receive treatment with either the angiotensin II type I receptor antagonist irbesartan or the beta1-adrenoceptor blocker atenolol for 48 weeks. Genyotyping was performed using minisequencing.
Results
After adjustment for potential covariates (blood pressure and left ventricular mass index at baseline, blood pressure change, age, sex, dose and added antihypertensive treatment), there was a marked difference between the Arg/Arg and Lys/Arg genotypes in patients treated with irbesartan; those with the Arg/Arg genotype responded on average with an almost two-fold greater regression of left ventricular mass index than patients with the Lys/Arg genotype (-30.1 g/m2 [3.6] vs -16.7 [4.5], p = 0.03).
Conclusions
The ALAP genotype seems to determine the degree of regression of left ventricular hypertrophy during antihypertensive treatment with the angiotensin II type I receptor antagonist irbesartan in patients with essential hypertension and left ventricular hypertrophy. This is the first report of a role for ALAP/aminopeptidases in left ventricular mass regulation, and suggests a new potential target for antihypertensive drugs.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-3-11
PMCID: PMC212555  PMID: 13678427
Aminopeptidase; irbesartan; hypertension; polymorphism; left ventricular hypertrophy; angiotensin; pharmacogenomics; bradykinin.
3.  Home-based versus hospital-based cardiac rehabilitation after myocardial infarction or revascularisation: design and rationale of the Birmingham Rehabilitation Uptake Maximisation Study (BRUM): a randomised controlled trial [ISRCTN72884263] 
Background
Cardiac rehabilitation following myocardial infarction reduces subsequent mortality, but uptake and adherence to rehabilitation programmes remains poor, particularly among women, the elderly and ethnic minority groups. Evidence of the effectiveness of home-based cardiac rehabilitation remains limited. This trial evaluates the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of home-based compared to hospital-based cardiac rehabilitation.
Methods/design
A pragmatic randomised controlled trial of home-based compared with hospital-based cardiac rehabilitation in four hospitals serving a multi-ethnic inner city population in the United Kingdom was designed. The home programme is nurse-facilitated, manual-based using the Heart Manual. The hospital programmes offer comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation in an out-patient setting.
Patients
We will randomise 650 adult, English or Punjabi-speaking patients of low-medium risk following myocardial infarction, coronary angioplasty or coronary artery bypass graft who have been referred for cardiac rehabilitation.
Main outcome measures
Serum cholesterol, smoking cessation, blood pressure, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Score, distance walked on Shuttle walk-test measured at 6, 12 and 24 months. Adherence to the programmes will be estimated using patient self-reports of activity.
In-depth interviews with non-attendees and non-adherers will ascertain patient views and the acceptability of the programmes and provide insights about non-attendance and aims to generate a theory of attendance at cardiac rehabilitation. The economic analysis will measure National Health Service costs using resource inputs. Patient costs will be established from the qualitative research, in particular how they affect adherence.
Discussion
More data are needed on the role of home-based versus hospital-based cardiac rehabilitation for patients following myocardial infarction and revascularisation, which would be provided by the Birmingham Rehabilitation Uptake Maximisation Study (BRUM) study and has implications for the clinical management of these patients. A novel feature of this study is the inclusion of non-English Punjabi speakers.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-3-10
PMCID: PMC200974  PMID: 12964946
Cardiac rehabilitation; Randomised controlled trial; home care services; coronary disease; economic evaluation
4.  Protocol for Birmingham Atrial Fibrillation Treatment of the Aged study (BAFTA): a randomised controlled trial of warfarin versus aspirin for stroke prevention in the management of atrial fibrillation in an elderly primary care population [ISRCTN89345269] 
Background
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an important independent risk factor for stroke. Randomised controlled trials have shown that this risk can be reduced substantially by treatment with warfarin or more modestly by treatment with aspirin. Existing trial data for the effectiveness of warfarin are drawn largely from studies in selected secondary care populations that under-represent the elderly.
The Birmingham Atrial Fibrillation Treatment of the Aged (BAFTA) study will provide evidence of the risks and benefits of warfarin versus aspirin for the prevention of stroke for older people with AF in a primary care setting.
Study design
A randomised controlled trial where older patients with AF are randomised to receive adjusted dose warfarin or aspirin. Patients will be followed up at three months post-randomisation, then at six monthly intervals there after for an average of three years by their general practitioner. Patients will also receive an annual health questionnaire.
1240 patients will be recruited from over 200 practices in England. Patients must be aged 75 years or over and have AF. Patients will be excluded if they have a history of any of the following conditions: rheumatic heart disease; major non-traumatic haemorrhage; intra-cranial haemorrhage; oesophageal varices; active endoscopically proven peptic ulcer disease; allergic hypersensitivity to warfarin or aspirin; or terminal illness. Patients will also be excluded if the GP considers that there are clinical reasons to treat a patient with warfarin in preference to aspirin (or vice versa).
The primary end-point is fatal or non-fatal disabling stroke (ischaemic or haemorrhagic) or significant arterial embolism. Secondary outcomes include major extra-cranial haemorrhage, death (all cause, vascular), hospital admissions (all cause, vascular), cognition, quality of life, disability and compliance with study medication.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-3-9
PMCID: PMC201020  PMID: 12939169
5.  A new scoring system to stratify risk in unstable angina 
Background
We performed this study to develop a new scoring system to stratify different levels of risk in patients admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of unstable angina (UA), which is a complex syndrome that encompasses different outcomes. Many prognostic variables have been described but few efforts have been made to group them in order to enhance their individual predictive power.
Methods
In a first phase, 473 patients were prospectively analyzed to determine which factors were significantly associated with the in-hospital occurrence of refractory ischemia, acute myocardial infarction (AMI) or death. A risk score ranging from 0 to 10 points was developed using a multivariate analysis. In a second phase, such score was validated in a new sample of 242 patients and it was finally applied to the entire population (n = 715).
Results
ST-segment deviation on the electrocardiogram, age ≥ 70 years, previous bypass surgery and troponin T ≥ 0.1 ng/mL were found as independent prognostic variables. A clear distinction was shown among categories of low, intermediate and high risk, defined according to the risk score. The incidence of the triple end-point was 6 %, 19.2 % and 44.7 % respectively, and the figures for AMI or death were 2 %, 11.4 % and 27.6 % respectively (p < 0.001).
Conclusions
This new scoring system is simple and easy to achieve. It allows a very good stratification of risk in patients having a clinical diagnosis of UA. They may be divided in three categories, which could be of help in the decision-making process.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-3-8
PMCID: PMC194644  PMID: 12930562
6.  Sinus versus nonsinus tachycardia in the emergency department: Importance of age and heart rate 
Background
The emergency department diagnosis of sinus versus nonsinus tachycardia is an important clinical challenge. The objective of this study was to identify subjects with a high prevalence of nonsinus tachycardia.
Methods
Heart rate and cardiac rhythm were prospective reviewed in 500 consecutive patients with heart rate ≥ 100 beats/min in a busy emergency department. A predictive model based on age and heart rate was then developed to identify the probability of nonsinus tachycardia.
Results
As age and heart rate increased, nonsinus tachycardias became more frequent. The probability of nonsinus tachycardia in a subject ≥ 71 years with heart rate ≥ 141 beats/minute was 93%, compared to only three percent in a subject ≤ 50 years with heart rate 100–120 beats/minute. A simple point score system based on age and heart rate helps predict the probability of sinus tachycardia versus nonsinus tachycardia.
Conclusion
Nonsinus tachycardia is significantly more common than sinus tachycardia in elderly patients in the emergency department. The diagnosis of sinus tachycardia becomes much less likely as age and heart rate increase.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-3-7
PMCID: PMC184452  PMID: 12901738
7.  HMG-CoA reductase inhibition aborts functional differentiation and triggers apoptosis in cultured primary human monocytes: a potential mechanism of statin-mediated vasculoprotection 
Background
Statins effectively lower blood cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular death. Immunomodulatory actions, independent of their lipid-lowering effect, have also been ascribed to these compounds. Since macrophages participate in several vascular pathologies, we examined the effect of statin treatment on the survival and differentiation of primary human monocytes.
Methods
Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from healthy individuals were cultured in the presence or absence of mevastatin. Apoptosis was monitored by annexin V / PI staining and flow cytometry. In parallel experiments, cultures were stimulated with LPS in the presence or absence of mevastatin and the release of IL-1β and IL-1Ra was measured by ELISA.
Results
Among PBMCs, mevastatin-treated monocytes were particularly susceptible to apoptosis, which occurred at doses >1 microM and was already maximal at 5 microM. However, even at the highest mevastatin dose used (10 microM), apoptosis occurred only after 24 h of culture, possibly reflecting a requirement for cell commitment to differentiation. After 72 h of treatment the vast majority (>50%) of monocytes were undergoing apoptosis. Stimulation with LPS revealed that mevastatin-treated monocytes retained the high IL-1β output characteristic of undifferentiated cells; conversely, IL-1Ra release was inhibited. Concurrent treatment with mevalonolactone prevented the induction of apoptosis and suppressed both IL-1β and IL-1Ra release in response to LPS, suggesting a rate-limiting role for HMG-CoA reductase in monocyte differentiation.
Conclusions
Our findings indicate that statins arrest the functional differentiation of monocytes into macrophages and steer these cells into apoptosis, suggesting a novel mechanism for the vasculoprotective properties of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-3-6
PMCID: PMC183828  PMID: 12871602
apoptosis; arteriosclerosis; cholesterol; drugs; leukocytes
8.  Risk of valvular heart disease associated with use of fenfluramine 
Background
Estimates of excess risk of valvular heart disease among prior users of fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine have varied widely. Two major forms of bias appear to contribute to this variability and also result in a systematic under-estimation of risk. The first, a form of nondifferential misclassification, is the result of including background, prevalent cases among both exposed and unexposed persons in calculations of risk. The second bias results from not considering the relatively short duration of exposure to drugs.
Methods
We examined data from all available echocardiographic studies reporting the prevalence of aortic regurgitation (AR) and mitral regurgitation (MR) among persons exposed to fenfluramine or dexfenfluramine and a suitable control group. We also included one study in which previously existing AR or MR had been excluded. We corrected for background prevalent cases, estimated incidence rates in unexposed persons, and performed a person-years analysis of apparent incidence rates based on exposure time to provide an unbiased estimate of relative risk.
Results
Appearance of new AR was strongly related to duration of exposure (R2 = 0.75, p < 0.0001). The summary relative risk for mild or greater AR was 19.6 (95% CI 16.3 – 23.5, p < 0.00001); for moderate or greater MR it was 5.9 (95% CI 4.0 – 8.6, p < 0.00001).
Conclusion
These findings provide strong support for the view that fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine are potent causal factors in the development of both aortic and mitral valvular heart disease.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-3-5
PMCID: PMC194859  PMID: 12801402
fenfluramine; dexfenfluramine; aortic regurgitation; mitral regurgitation; risk
9.  The rat STSL locus: characterization, chromosomal assignment, and genetic variations in sitosterolemic hypertensive rats 
Background
Elevated plant sterol accumulation has been reported in the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR), the stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHRSP) and the Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rat. Additionally, a blood pressure quantitative trait locus (QTL) has been mapped to rat chromosome 6 in a New Zealand genetically hypertensive rat strain (GH rat). ABCG5 and ABCG8 (encoding sterolin-1 and sterolin-2 respectively) have been shown to be responsible for causing sitosterolemia in humans. These genes are organized in a head-to-head configuration at the STSL locus on human chromosome 2p21.
Methods
To investigate whether mutations in Abcg5 or Abcg8 exist in SHR, SHRSP, WKY and GH rats, we initiated a systematic search for the genetic variation in coding and non-coding region of Abcg5 and Abcg8 genes in these strains. We isolated the rat cDNAs for these genes and characterized the genomic structure and tissue expression patterns, using standard molecular biology techniques and FISH for chromosomal assignments.
Results
Both rat Abcg5 and Abcg8 genes map to chromosome band 6q12. These genes span ~40 kb and contain 13 exons and 12 introns each, in a pattern identical to that of the STSL loci in mouse and man. Both Abcg5 and Abcg8 were expressed only in liver and intestine. Analyses of DNA from SHR, SHRSP, GH, WKY, Wistar, Wistar King A (WKA) and Brown Norway (BN) rat strains revealed a homozygous G to T substitution at nucleotide 1754, resulting in the coding change Gly583Cys in sterolin-1 only in rats that are both sitosterolemic and hypertensive (SHR, SHRSP and WKY).
Conclusions
The rat STSL locus maps to chromosome 6q12. A non-synonymous mutation in Abcg5, Gly583Cys, results in sitosterolemia in rat strains that are also hypertensive (WKY, SHR and SHRSP). Those rat strains that are hypertensive, but not sitosterolemic (e.g. GH rat) do not have mutations in Abcg5 or Abcg8. This mutation allows for expression and apparent apical targeting of Abcg5 protein in the intestine. These rat strains may therefore allow us to study the pathophysiological mechanisms involved in the human disease of sitosterolemia.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-3-4
PMCID: PMC165443  PMID: 12783625
10.  Increased blood product use among coronary artery bypass patients prescribed preoperative aspirin and clopidogrel 
Background
The administration of antiplatelet drugs before coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) is associated with an increased risk of major hemorrhage and related surgical reexploration. Little is known about the relative effect of combined clopidogrel and aspirin on blood product use around the time of CABG. We evaluated the associated risk between the combined use of aspirin and clopidogrel and the transfusion of blood products perioperatively.
Methods
We retrospectively studied a cohort of 659 individuals who underwent a first CABG, without concomitant valvular or aortic surgery, at a single large Canadian cardiac surgical centre between January 2000 and April 2002. The four study exposure groups were those prescribed aspirin (n = 105), clopidogrel (n = 11), the combination of both (n = 46), or neither drug (n = 497), within 7 days prior to CABG. The primary study outcome was the excessive transfusion of blood products during CABG and up to the second post-operative day, defined as ≥ 2 units of packed red blood cells (PRBC), ≥ 2 units of fresh frozen plasma, ≥ 5 units of cryoprecipitate or ≥ 5 units of platelets. Secondary outcomes included the mean number of transfused units of each type of blood product.
Results
A greater mean number of units of PRBC were transfused among those who received clopidogrel alone (2.9) or in combination with aspirin (2.4), compared to those on aspirin alone (1.9) or neither antiplatelet drug (1.4) (P = 0.001). A similar trend was seen for the respective mean number of transfused units of platelets (3.6, 3.7, 1.3 and 1.0; P < 0.001) and fresh frozen plasma (2.5, 3.1, 2.3, 1.6; P = 0.01). Compared to non-users, the associated risk of excessive blood product transfusion was highest among recipients of aspirin and clopidogrel together (adjusted OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.1–4.3). No significant association was seen among lone users of aspirin (adjusted OR 1.0, 95% CI 0.6–1.6) or clopidogrel (adjusted OR 0.7, 95% CI 0.2–2.5), compared to non-users.
Conclusions
While combined use of aspirin and clopidogrel shortly before CABG surgery may increase the associated risk of excess transfusion of blood products perioperatively, several study limitations prevent any confident conclusions from being drawn. Beyond challenging these findings, future research might focus on the value of both intraoperative monitoring of platelet function, and the effectiveness of antifibrinolytic agents, at reducing the risk of postoperative bleeding.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-3-3
PMCID: PMC162165  PMID: 12769833
Coronary artery bypass surgery; antiplatelet; aspirin; clopidogrel; transfusion; hemorrhage; critical care
11.  Effect of paracetamol (acetaminophen) and ibuprofen on body temperature in acute ischemic stroke PISA, a phase II double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial [ISRCTN98608690] 
Background
Body temperature is a strong predictor of outcome in acute stroke. In a previous randomized trial we observed that treatment with high-dose acetaminophen (paracetamol) led to a reduction of body temperature in patients with acute ischemic stroke, even when they had no fever. The purpose of the present trial was to study whether this effect of acetaminophen could be reproduced, and whether ibuprofen would have a similar, or even stronger effect.
Methods
Seventy-five patients with acute ischemic stroke confined to the anterior circulation were randomized to treatment with either 1000 mg acetaminophen, 400 mg ibuprofen, or placebo, given 6 times daily during 5 days. Treatment was started within 24 hours from the onset of symptoms. Body temperatures were measured at 2-hour intervals during the first 24 hours, and at 6-hour intervals thereafter.
Results
No difference in body temperature at 24 hours was observed between the three treatment groups. However, treatment with high-dose acetaminophen resulted in a 0.3°C larger reduction in body temperature from baseline than placebo treatment (95% CI: 0.0 to 0.6 °C). Acetaminophen had no significant effect on body temperature during the subsequent four days compared to placebo, and ibuprofen had no statistically significant effect on body temperature during the entire study period.
Conclusions
Treatment with a daily dose of 6000 mg acetaminophen results in a small, but potentially worthwhile decrease in body temperature after acute ischemic stroke, even in normothermic and subfebrile patients. Further large randomized clinical trials are needed to study whether early reduction of body temperature leads to improved outcome.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-3-2
PMCID: PMC152640  PMID: 12657165
12.  Management of congestive heart failure: a gender gap may still exist. Observations from a contemporary cohort 
Background
Unlike other cardiovascular diseases the incidence and prevalence of congestive heart failure (CHF) continues to increase. While gender differences in coronary artery disease have been well described, to date, there has been a relative paucity of similar data in patients with CHF. We conducted a pilot study to evaluate the profile and management of patients with CHF at a tertiary care centre to determine if a gender difference exists.
Methods
A chart review was performed at a tertiary care centre on consecutive patients admitted with a primary diagnosis of CHF between June 1997 and 1998. Co-morbidity, diagnostic investigations, and management of CHF were recorded. Comparisons between male and female patients were conducted.
Results
One hundred and forty five patients were reviewed. There were 80 male (M) and 65 female (F) patients of similar age [71.6 vs. 71.3 (M vs. F), p = NS]. Male patients were more likely to have had a previous myocardial infarction (66% vs. 35%, p < 0.01) and revascularization (41% vs. 20%, p < 0.05), and had worse left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) than women, [median LVEF 3 vs. 2 (M vs. F), p < 0.01]. Male patients were more likely to have a non-invasive assessment of left ventricular (LV) function [85% vs. 69%, (M vs. F), p < 0.05]. A logistic regression analysis suggests that amongst those without coronary disease, males were more likely to receive non-invasive testing. There were no differences in the use of prescribed medications, in this cohort.
Conclusions
This pilot study demonstrated that there seem to be important gender differences in the profile and management of patients with CHF. Importantly women were less likely to have an evaluation of LV function. As assessment of LV function has significant implications on patient management, this data justifies the need for larger studies to assess gender differences in CHF profile and treatment.
doi:10.1186/1471-2261-3-1
PMCID: PMC149453  PMID: 12590653

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