Background: Patients with coronary artery disease and abnormalities of serum lipids often have endothelial vasodilator dysfunction, which may contribute to ischemic cardiac events. Whether cholesterol-lowering or antioxidant therapy can restore endothelium-dependent coronary vasodilation is unknown.
Methods: We randomly assigned 49 patients (mean serum cholesterol level, 209 +/- 33 mg per deciliter [5.40 +/- 0.85 mmol per liter]) to receive one of three treatments: an American Heart Association Step 1 diet (the diet group, 11 patients); lovastatin and cholestyramine (the low-density lipoprotein [LDL]-lowering group, 21 patients); or lovastatin and probucol (the LDL-lowering-antioxidant group, 17 patients). Endothelium-dependent coronary-artery vasomotion in response to an intracoronary infusion of acetylcholine (10(-8) to 10(-6) M) was assessed at base line and after one year of therapy. Vasoconstrictor responses to these doses of acetylcholine are considered to be abnormal.
Results: Treatment resulted in significant reductions in LDL cholesterol levels of 41 +/- 22 percent in the LDL-lowering-antioxidant group and 38 +/- 20 percent in the LDL-lowering group (P < 0.001 vs. the diet group). The maximal changes in coronary-artery diameter with acetylcholine at base line and at follow-up were -19 and -2 percent, respectively, in the LDL-lowering-antioxidant group, -15 and -6 percent in the LDL-lowering group, and -14 and -19 percent in the diet group (P < 0.01 for the LDL-lowering-antioxidant group vs. the diet group; P = 0.08 for the LDL-lowering group vs. the diet group). (The negative numbers indicate vasoconstriction). Thus, the greatest improvement in the vasoconstrictor response was seen in the LDL-lowering-antioxidant group.
Conclusions: The improvement in endothelium-dependent vasomotion with cholesterol-lowering and antioxidant therapy may have important implications for the activity of myocardial ischemia and may explain in part the reduced incidence of adverse coronary events that is known to result from cholesterol-lowering therapy.