Context: Cardiovascular disease is increased in patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), but the specific mechanisms are unknown.
Objective: To assess arterial wall inflammation in HIV, using 18fluorine-2-deoxy-D-glucose positron emission tomography (18F-FDG-PET), in relationship to traditional and nontraditional risk markers, including soluble CD163 (sCD163), a marker of monocyte and macrophage activation.
Design, setting, and participants: A cross-sectional study of 81 participants investigated between November 2009 and July 2011 at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Twenty-seven participants with HIV without known cardiac disease underwent cardiac 18F-FDG-PET for assessment of arterial wall inflammation and coronary computed tomography scanning for coronary artery calcium. The HIV group was compared with 2 separate non-HIV control groups. One control group (n = 27) was matched to the HIV group for age, sex, and Framingham risk score (FRS) and had no known atherosclerotic disease (non-HIV FRS-matched controls). The second control group (n = 27) was matched on sex and selected based on the presence of known atherosclerotic disease (non-HIV atherosclerotic controls).
Main outcome measure: Arterial inflammation was prospectively determined as the ratio of FDG uptake in the arterial wall of the ascending aorta to venous background as the target-to-background ratio (TBR).
Results: Participants with HIV demonstrated well-controlled HIV disease (mean [SD] CD4 cell count, 641  cells/μL; median [interquartile range] HIV-RNA level, <48 [<48 to <48] copies/mL). All were receiving antiretroviral therapy (mean [SD] duration, 12.3 [4.3] years). The mean FRS was low in both HIV and non-HIV FRS-matched control participants (6.4; 95% CI, 4.8-8.0 vs 6.6; 95% CI, 4.9-8.2; P = .87). Arterial inflammation in the aorta (aortic TBR) was higher in the HIV group vs the non-HIV FRS-matched control group (2.23; 95% CI, 2.07-2.40 vs 1.89; 95% CI, 1.80-1.97; P < .001), but was similar compared with the non-HIV atherosclerotic control group (2.23; 95% CI, 2.07-2.40 vs 2.13; 95% CI, 2.03-2.23; P = .29). Aortic TBR remained significantly higher in the HIV group vs the non-HIV FRS-matched control group after adjusting for traditional cardiovascular risk factors (P = .002) and in stratified analyses among participants with undetectable viral load, zero calcium, FRS of less than 10, a low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level of less than 100 mg/dL (<2.59 mmol/L), no statin use, and no smoking (all P ≤ .01). Aortic TBR was associated with sCD163 level (P = .04) but not with C-reactive protein (P = .65) or D-dimer (P = .08) among patients with HIV.
Conclusion: Participants infected with HIV vs noninfected control participants with similar cardiac risk factors had signs of increased arterial inflammation, which was associated with a circulating marker of monocyte and macrophage activation.