Introduction: It has been suggested that atherosclerotic vascular disease is a chronic inflammatory process. The aim of this study was to investigate the importance of C-reactive protein (CRP) as a cardiovascular risk marker and predictor of death, as well as its relation to other factors of the metabolic syndrome in a cohort of type 2 diabetic patients at high risk of severe macrovascular complications.
Material and methods: 592 patients, aged 55 to 74 years (311 men, 281 women), with signs and symptoms of circulation deficits were examined by duplex ultrasound for suspected cerebrovascular and peripheral arterial disease and followed over a period of 5 years. At baseline, 292 patients of the total group had type 2 diabetes (49.3%). Ischemic heart disease was present in 40.2%, internal carotid stenosis in 21.9% and peripheral arterial disease in 39.7% of the subjects.
Results: During the observation period, 104 patients had died, 72 (69.2%) due to cardiovascular causes. Non-fatal myocardial infarction occurred in 39 patients (7.4%), non-fatal stroke in 70 patients (13.3%) and amputations because of gangrene were unavoidable in 24 patients (4.6%). In Cox regression analysis, CRP was the strongest predictor of death and cardiovascular death in the total cohort (RR 3.7 [95% CI 1.86-7.50] and 5.4 [2.13-13.76]), as well as in the type 2 diabetic subgroup (RR 3.3 [1.27-8.70] and 5.4 [1.44-20.0]). In contrast neither the traditional cardiovascular risk factors nor the data of diabetic metabolic control were able to improve prediction. CRP was correlated positively with plasma levels of triglycerides (r=0.19, p=0.002), C-peptide (r=0.21, p=0.004), postprandial glucose (r=0.17, p=0.009), albuminuria (r=0.16, p=0.020), and inversely with HDL cholesterol (r=-0.20, p=0.002) in type 2 diabetic patients.
Conclusions: CRP seems to be a better predictor of death and cardiovascular events than traditional risk factors or parameters of metabolic control in type 2 diabetic patients at high risk for cardiovascular endpoints. Additionally, CRP is associated with several facets of the metabolic syndrome.