Context: Plasma fibrinogen levels may be associated with the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke.
Objective: To assess the relationships of fibrinogen levels with risk of major vascular and with risk of nonvascular outcomes based on individual participant data.
Data sources: Relevant studies were identified by computer-assisted searches, hand searches of reference lists, and personal communication with relevant investigators.
Study selection: All identified prospective studies were included with information available on baseline fibrinogen levels and details of subsequent major vascular morbidity and/or cause-specific mortality during at least 1 year of follow-up. Studies were excluded if they recruited participants on the basis of having had a previous history of cardiovascular disease; participants with known preexisting CHD or stroke were excluded.
Data extraction: Individual records were provided on each of 154,211 participants in 31 prospective studies. During 1.38 million person-years of follow-up, there were 6944 first nonfatal myocardial infarctions or stroke events and 13,210 deaths. Cause-specific mortality was generally available. Analyses involved proportional hazards modeling with adjustment for confounding by known cardiovascular risk factors and for regression dilution bias.
Data synthesis: Within each age group considered (40-59, 60-69, and > or =70 years), there was an approximately log-linear association with usual fibrinogen level for the risk of any CHD, any stroke, other vascular (eg, non-CHD, nonstroke) mortality, and nonvascular mortality. There was no evidence of a threshold within the range of usual fibrinogen level studied at any age. The age- and sex- adjusted hazard ratio per 1-g/L increase in usual fibrinogen level for CHD was 2.42 (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.24-2.60); stroke, 2.06 (95% CI, 1.83-2.33); other vascular mortality, 2.76 (95% CI, 2.28-3.35); and nonvascular mortality, 2.03 (95% CI, 1.90-2.18). The hazard ratios for CHD and stroke were reduced to about 1.8 after further adjustment for measured values of several established vascular risk factors. In a subset of 7011 participants with available C-reactive protein values, the findings for CHD were essentially unchanged following additional adjustment for C-reactive protein. The associations of fibrinogen level with CHD or stroke did not differ substantially according to sex, smoking, blood pressure, blood lipid levels, or several features of study design.
Conclusions: In this large individual participant meta-analysis, moderately strong associations were found between usual plasma fibrinogen level and the risks of CHD, stroke, other vascular mortality, and nonvascular mortality in a wide range of circumstances in healthy middle-aged adults. Assessment of any causal relevance of elevated fibrinogen levels to disease requires additional research.