Biomarkers of Vascular Inflammation for Cardiovascular Risk Prognostication: A Meta-Analysis

JACC Cardiovasc Imaging. 2022 Mar;15(3):460-471. doi: 10.1016/j.jcmg.2021.09.014. Epub 2021 Nov 17.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to systematically explore the added value of biomarkers of vascular inflammation for cardiovascular prognostication on top of clinical risk factors.

Background: Measurement of biomarkers of vascular inflammation is advocated for the risk stratification for coronary heart disease (CHD).

Methods: We systematically explored published reports in MEDLINE for cohort studies on the prognostic value of common biomarkers of vascular inflammation in stable patients without known CHD. These included common circulating inflammatory biomarkers (ie, C-reactive protein, interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-a, arterial positron emission tomography/computed tomography and coronary computed tomography angiography-derived biomarkers of vascular inflammation, including anatomical high-risk plaque features and perivascular fat imaging. The main endpoint was the difference in c-index (Δ[c-index]) with the use of inflammatory biomarkers for major adverse cardiovascular events (MACEs) and mortality. We calculated I2 to test heterogeneity. This study is registered with PROSPERO (CRD42020181158).

Results: A total of 104,826 relevant studies were screened and a final of 39 independent studies (175,778 individuals) were included in the quantitative synthesis. Biomarkers of vascular inflammation provided added prognostic value for the composite endpoint and for MACEs only (pooled estimate for Δ[c-index]% 2.9, 95% CI: 1.7-4.1 and 3.1, 95% CI: 1.8-4.5, respectively). Coronary computed tomography angiography-related biomarkers were associated with the highest added prognostic value for MACEs: high-risk plaques 5.8%, 95% CI: 0.6 to 11.0, and perivascular adipose tissue (on top of coronary atherosclerosis extent and high-risk plaques): 8.2%, 95% CI: 4.0 to 12.5). In meta-regression analysis, the prognostic value of inflammatory biomarkers was independent of other confounders including study size, length of follow-up, population event incidence, the performance of the baseline model, and the level of statistical adjustment. Limitations in the published literature include the lack of reporting of other metrics of improvement of risk stratification, the net clinical benefit, or the cost-effectiveness of such biomarkers in clinical practice.

Conclusions: The use of biomarkers of vascular inflammation enhances risk discrimination for cardiovascular events.

Keywords: biomarkers; cardiovascular disease; coronary computed tomography; inflammation; prevention; prognosis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Cardiovascular Diseases*
  • Coronary Artery Disease* / diagnostic imaging
  • Heart Disease Risk Factors
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / diagnostic imaging
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers