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Clinical Trial
, 16 (7), 949-61

Risk Factors Associated With Alterations in Carotid Intima-Media Thickness in Hypertension: Baseline Data From the European Lacidipine Study on Atherosclerosis

Clinical Trial

Risk Factors Associated With Alterations in Carotid Intima-Media Thickness in Hypertension: Baseline Data From the European Lacidipine Study on Atherosclerosis

A Zanchetti et al. J Hypertens.


Background: The possibility that calcium antagonists exert an anti-atherosclerotic action at least partly independently of the blood-pressure-lowering effect is supported by results of a large number of experimental studies and can now be investigated by quantitative B-mode ultrasound imagining of the carotid artery walls.

Design: The European Lacidipine Study on Atherosclerosis (ELSA) is a prospective, randomized, double-blind, multinational trial comparing effects of 4-year treatment based on the long-acting, highly lipophilic calcium antagonist lacidipine with those of treatment based on the beta-blocker atenolol on the development of carotid artery wall alterations in patients (aged 45-75 years) with mild-to-moderate hypertension (systolic blood pressure 150-210 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure 95-115 mmHg). While the intervention study is progressing, this article summarizes baseline data obtained from the whole cohort of 2259 patients randomly allocated to treatment.

Methods: Baseline ultrasound data were obtained from two replicate examinations performed shortly before random allocation to treatment by certified sonographers at 23 referral centres and read at the ultrasound coordinating centre at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Intima-media thickness was measured at up to 12 different sites in the carotid artery tree and expressed as the mean of the maxima at these sites (Mmax), the mean of the maxima at four sites in the distal common carotid artery and bifurcation (CBMmax) and the maximum intima-media thickness (Tmax). Baseline demographic and clinical measurements were performed by investigators in 410 peripheral clinical units and 24 h ambulatory blood pressure monitorings read and validated by members of a centralized unit at the University of Milan. The statistical analysis centre at the Technische Universität München received and analysed all baseline data, by calculating means +/- SD, medians and ranges and performing correlation (Spearman correlation coefficients) and multiple regression analyses.

Results: Prevalence of carotid artery wall alterations among the hypertensive patients randomly allocated to treatment in the ELSA was very high: 82% had Tmax > or = 1.3 mm ('plaques' according to protocol) and 17% had Tmax > or = 1.0 and < 1.3 mm ('thickening'), with a median of two plaques per patient. We found significant correlations between ultrasound measurements and the following demographic and clinical variables: age, sex, systolic blood pressure and pulse pressure (both clinic and ambulatory), concentrations of total, high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides, smoking habit and duration of hypertension. We found no significant correlation to diastolic blood pressure and glucose concentration. A multiple regression analysis indicated significant variables in the following rank order: age, 24 h ambulatory pulse pressure, sex, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration, triglyceride concentration, smoking and clinic systolic blood pressure.

Conclusions: Analysis of baseline data from the ELSA has shown that there is an extremely marked prevalence of carotid artery wall alterations among mild-to-moderate, middle-aged hypertensive patients. In addition to age, systolic blood pressure and pulse pressure, particularly if they are accurately measured by ambulatory monitoring, play a major role, somewhat greater than those of sex, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration and smoking, in influencing intima-media thickness.

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