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Carotid Intima-Media Thickness Progression as Surrogate Marker for Cardiovascular Risk: Meta-Analysis of 119 Clinical Trials Involving 100,667 Patients

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journal contribution
posted on 25.06.2020, 15:46 by Michael Sweeting
Background: To quantify the association between effects of interventions on carotid intimamedia thickness (cIMT) progression and their effects on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Methods: We systematically collated data from randomized controlled trials. cIMT was assessed as the mean value at the common-carotid-artery; if unavailable, the maximum value at the common-carotid-artery or other cIMT measures were utilized. The primary outcome was a combined CVD endpoint defined as myocardial infarction, stroke, revascularization procedures, or fatal CVD. We estimated intervention effects on cIMT progression and incident CVD for each trial, before relating the two using a Bayesian meta-regression approach. Results: We analyzed data of 119 randomized controlled trials involving 100,667 patients (mean age 62 years, 42% female). Over an average follow-up of 3.7 years, 12,038 patients developed the combined CVD endpoint. Across all interventions, each 10 μm/year reduction of cIMT progression resulted in a relative risk for CVD of 0.91 (95% credible interval 0.87-0.94), with an additional relative risk for CVD of 0.92 (0.87-0.97) being achieved independent of cIMT progression. Taken together, we estimated that interventions reducing cIMT progression by 10, 20, 30, or 40 μm/year would yield relative risks of 0.84 (0.75-0.93), 0.76 (0.67-0.85), 0.69 (0.59-0.79), or 0.63 (0.52-0.74). Results were similar when grouping trials by type of intervention, time of conduct, time to ultrasound follow-up, availability of individual-participant data, primary vs. secondary prevention trials, type of cIMT measurement, and proportion of female patients. Conclusions: The extent of intervention effects on cIMT progression predicted the degree of CVD risk reduction. This provides a missing link supporting the usefulness of cIMT progression as a surrogate marker for CVD risk in clinical trials.


This work was supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) [P 32488]; the Dr.-Johannes-andHertha-Tuba Foundation; the German Research Foundation [DFG Lo 1569/2-1 and DFG Lo1569/2-3]; and the excellence initiative “Competence Centers for Excellent Technologies” (COMET) of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) “Research Center of Excellence in Vascular Ageing: Tyrol, VASCage” [K-Project No. 843536], funded by Bundesministerium für Verkehr, Innovation und Technologie (BMVIT), Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung (BMWFW), Wirtschaftsagentur Wien, and Standortagentur Tirol.



Circulation, 2020

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Department of Health Sciences


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American Heart Association





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