Cardiac microstructural alterations measured by echocardiography identify sex-specific risk for heart failure

Heart. 2022 Oct 28;108(22):1800-1806. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2022-320876.


Objective: Established preclinical imaging assessments of heart failure (HF) risk are based on macrostructural cardiac remodelling. Given that microstructural alterations may also influence HF risk, particularly in women, we examined associations between microstructural alterations and incident HF.

Methods: We studied N=2511 adult participants (mean age 65.7±8.8 years, 56% women) of the Framingham Offspring Study who were free of cardiovascular disease at baseline. We employed texture analysis of echocardiography to quantify microstructural alteration, based on the high spectrum signal intensity coefficient (HS-SIC). We examined its relations to incident HF in sex-pooled and sex-specific Cox models accounting for traditional HF risk factors and macrostructural alterations.

Results: We observed 94 new HF events over 7.4±1.7 years. Individuals with higher HS-SIC had increased risk for incident HF (HR 1.67 per 1-SD in HS-SIC, 95% CI 1.31 to 2.13; p<0.0001). Adjusting for age and antihypertensive medication use, this association was significant in women (p=0.02) but not men (p=0.78). Adjusting for traditional risk factors (including body mass index, total/high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, blood pressure traits, diabetes and smoking) attenuated the association in women (HR 1.30, p=0.07), with mediation of HF risk by the HS-SIC seen for a majority of these risk factors. However, the HS-SIC association with HF in women remained significant after adjusting for relative wall thickness (representing macrostructure alteration) in addition to these risk factors (HR 1.47, p=0.02).

Conclusions: Cardiac microstructural alterations are associated with elevated risk for HF, particularly in women. Microstructural alteration may identify sex-specific pathways by which individuals progress from risk factors to clinical HF.

Keywords: Cardiomyopathies; Echocardiography; Heart Failure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure
  • Echocardiography
  • Female
  • Heart Failure* / diagnostic imaging
  • Heart Failure* / epidemiology
  • Heart Failure* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors