Background: Atherosclerosis is typically associated with a low-grade vascular inflammation that can be measured with the highly sensitive C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) assay. Actually, acute coronary syndromes are thought to result from plaque rupture which is induced by the inflammatory process in the atherosclerotic tissue. Therefore, it is interesting to discuss the value of follow-up measurements of hs-CRP in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD).
Patients and methods: The hs-CRP concentration of 133 patients consecutively admitted with an acute coronary syndrome (ACS) was measured on admission and after 6 months. The final assessment after 3 years was structured by questionnaire.
Results: 17 cardiac events occurred within 6 months, 30 during the following 3 years. The hs-CRP levels (median +/- SEM) decreased significantly (p < 0.001) from baseline (3.9 +/- 1.3 mg/l) to follow-up (2.9 +/- 0.9 mg/l). Subdivision according to cardiac events during the first observation period confirmed this decrease in patients without events (baseline: 3.9 +/- 1.5 mg/l, follow-up: 2.9 +/- 0.9 mg/l; p < 0.001), whereas patients with events showed a persistent elevation (baseline: 3.8 +/- 0.9 mg/l, follow-up: 4.1 +/- 1.0 mg/l; p = 0.426). Patients who developed a further event during the 6-month period showed hs-CRP levels at follow-up that were > 60% of the initial level. Interestingly, 80% of the events within the following 3 years occurred in patients with an hs-CRP level above this discriminator. With a follow-up hs-CRP value above this discriminator the relative risk of suffering an event was 3.4 (95% confidence interval 1.27-8.9; p < 0.05).
Conclusion: Patients with a non-ST elevation ACS who showed no event within 6 months are characterized by a decrease in hs-CRP levels from baseline to follow-up. Most events in the observation period of 3 years occurred in patients with follow-up hs-CRP levels > 60% of the initial level. Therefore, it was hypothesized that a repeated measurement of hs-CRP levels in CAD patients could help to discriminate those at high risk of further events.