Background: We conducted a meta-analysis of observational studies which examined the association between flow-mediated dilatation (FMD) of brachial artery, a noninvasive measure of endothelial function, and future cardiovascular events.
Methods: Electronic databases were searched using a predefined search strategy. Data was independently abstracted on study characteristics, study quality, and outcomes by two reviewers. The multivariate relative risks, adjusted for confounding factors, were calculated from individual studies and then pooled using random-effects models. Statistical heterogeneity was evaluated using I2 statistics. Subgroup analyses and meta-regression analyses were conducted to assess the robustness of the meta-analysis. Publication bias was examined with funnel plot analysis and Egger's test.
Results: Four population-based cohort studies and ten convenience-cohort studies, involving 5,547 participants, were included in the meta-analysis. The pooled relative risks of cardiovascular events per 1% increase in brachial FMD, adjusted for confounding risk factors, was 0.87 (95% CI, 0.83- 0.91). The significant associations between brachial FMD and cardiovascular events were consistent among all subgroups evaluated, suggesting the robustness of the meta-analysis. However, the presence of heterogeneity in study quality, the remaining confounding factors, and publication bias in the available literature prevent a definitive evaluation of the additional predictive value of brachial FMD beyond traditional cardiovascular risk factors.
Conclusions: The meta-analysis of heterogeneous studies with moderate methodological quality suggested that impairment of brachial FMD is significantly associated with future cardiovascular events. Further prospective randomized trials are warranted to confirm the efficacy of the usage of brachial FMD in the management of cardiovascular diseases.