Objectives: The relation between endothelium-dependent vasodilator function in the brachial and coronary arteries was determined in the same subjects.
Background: Coronary artery endothelial dysfunction precedes the development of overt atherosclerosis and is important in its pathogenesis. A noninvasive assessment of endothelial function in a peripheral conduit vessel, the brachial artery, was recently described, but the relation between brachial artery function and coronary artery vasodilator function has not been explored.
Methods: In 50 patients referred to the catheterization laboratory for the evaluation of coronary artery disease (mean age +/- SD 56 +/- 10 years), the coronary vasomotor response to serial intracoronary infusions of the endothelium-dependent agonist acetylcholine (10(-8) to 10(-6) mol/liter), was studied. Endothelium-dependent vasodilation was also assessed in the brachial artery by measuring the change in brachial artery diameter in response to reactive hyperemia.
Results: Patients with coronary artery endothelial dysfunction manifested as vasoconstriction in response to acetylcholine had significantly impaired flow-mediated vasodilation in the brachial artery compared with that of patients with normal coronary endothelial function (4.8 +/- 5.5% vs. 10.8 +/- 7.6%, p < 0.01). Patients with coronary artery disease also had an attenuated brachial artery vasodilator response compared with that of patients with angiographically smooth coronary arteries (4.5 +/- 4.6% vs. 9.7 +/- 8.1%, p < 0.02). By multivariate analysis, the strongest predictors of reduced brachial dilator responses to flow were baseline brachial artery diameter (p < 0.001), coronary endothelial dysfunction (p = 0.003), the presence of coronary artery disease (p = 0.007) and cigarette smoking (p = 0.016). The brachial artery vasodilator response to sublingual nitroglycerin was independent of coronary endothelial responses or the presence of coronary artery disease. The positive predictive value of abnormal brachial dilation ( < 3%) in predicting coronary endothelial dysfunction is 95%.
Conclusions: This study demonstrated a close relation between coronary artery endothelium-dependent vasomotor responses to acetylcholine and flow-mediated vasodilation in the brachial artery. This noninvasive method may become a useful surrogate in assessing the predisposition to atherosclerosis in patients with cardiac risk factors.