Objectives: The goal of this study was to prospectively examine the long-term predictive value of brachial-artery endothelial dysfunction for future cardiovascular events.
Background: Brachial-artery endothelial function is impaired in individuals with atherosclerosis and coronary risk factors. The prospective relation between endothelial function determined by brachial-artery ultrasound and long-term cardiovascular risk is unknown.
Methods: We examined brachial-artery endothelial function using ultrasound in 199 patients with peripheral arterial disease before elective vascular surgery. Patients were prospectively followed with an average follow-up of 1.2 years after surgery.
Results: Thirty-five patients had an event during follow-up, including cardiac death (5 patients), myocardial infarction (17 patients), unstable angina (10 patients), or stroke (3 patients). Preoperative endothelium-dependent flow-mediated dilation (FMD) was significantly lower in patients with an event (4.4 +/- 2.8%) compared with those without an event (7.0 +/- 4.9%, p < 0.001), whereas endothelium-independent vasodilation to nitroglycerin was similar in both groups. In a Cox proportional-hazards model, independent predictors of events included age (p = 0.003), more invasive surgery (surgery other than carotid endarterectomy, p = 0.02), and impaired brachial-artery endothelial function (p = 0.002). Risk was approximately nine-fold higher in patients with FMD <8.1% (lower two tertiles) compared with those in the upper tertile (odds ratio 9.5; 95% confidence interval 2.3 to 40).
Conclusions: Impaired brachial-artery endothelial function independently predicts long-term cardiovascular events in patients with peripheral arterial disease. The findings suggest that noninvasive assessment of endothelial function using brachial-artery FMD may serve as a surrogate end point for cardiovascular risk.