Background: Inflammation is an important feature of atherosclerotic lesions, and increased production of the acute-phase reactant. C-reactive protein (CRF), is associated with a poor prognosis in severe unstable angina. We have investigated the existence and possible significance of the acute-phase responses of CRP and another sensitive reactant, serum amyloid A protein (SAA), in patients with unstable or stable angina.
Methods: We used new ultrasensitive immunoassays to measure CRP and SAA concentrations in plasma from 2121 outpatients with angina (1030 unstable, 743 stable, the rest atypical) enrolled in the European Concerted Action on Thrombosis and Disabilities (ECAT) Angina Pectoris Study. All patients underwent coronary angiography and extensive clinical and laboratory assessment at study entry, and were then followed up for 2 years. All suspected coronary events during follow-up were reviewed by an independent endpoint committee.
Findings: 75 individuals (41 with unstable, 29 with stable, and 5 with atypical angina) had a coronary event during follow-up. Concentrations of CRP at study entry were associated with coronary events in patients with stable or unstable angina: there was about a two-fold increase in the risk of a coronary event in patients whose CRP concentration was in the fifth quintile (> 3.6 mg/L), compared with the first four quintiles. A third of the events occurred among patients who had a CRP concentration of more than 3.6 mg/L. CRP concentrations were positively correlated with age, smoking, body-mass index, triglycerides, extent of coronary stenosis, history of myocardial infarction, and lower ejection fraction. By contrast, concentrations of SAA were not associated with risk of a coronary event.
Interpretation: We found that raised circulating concentrations of CRP are predictors of coronary events in patients with stable or unstable angina. The modest acute-phase responses of CRP were probably not the result of myocardial necrosis. Whatever the underlying mechanisms, the sensitive measurement of CRP as a prognostic marker may be useful in the management of coronary heart disease.