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Dr K K Aggarwal

Non obstructive heart blockages not benign

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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In a retrospective study of patients undergoing elective coronary angiography, non-obstructive coronary artery disease (heart blockages), compared with no apparent coronary artery disease (no blockages), was associated with a significantly greater 1-year risk of heart attack and all-cause mortality.

After risk adjustment, there was no significant association between 1- or 2-vessel non-obstructive coronary artery disease (blockages in one or two arteries) and mortality, but there were significant associations with mortality for 3-vessel non-obstructive coronary artery disease (blockages in all three arteries).

Veterans with evidence of non-obstructive CAD on elective coronary angiography had a 2- to 4.5-fold greater risk for heart attack compared with those with no evidence of blockages and 1-year heart attack risk was found to increase progressively by the extent of blockages, rather than increasing abruptly when blockages became obstructive. The results of this study were published in JAMA.

Never tell your patients “that your coronaries are fine and they have nothing to worry about.” Instead, one should say “There is evidence of atherosclerosis and while there is no need to panic, we need to address it.”

Remember there is nothing like “mild coronary artery disease.” Up to 1 in 4 angiograms show minimal plaque or blockages.

Non-obstructive blockages mean presence of atherosclerotic plaque revealed during coronary angioplasty or angiography that does not appear to obstruct blood flow or result in angina symptoms.

These non-obstructive lesions occur in about 10-25% of patients undergoing elective angiography, and their presence has historically been characterized as “insignificant” or “no significant blockages in the medical literature even though multiple studies have shown plaque ruptures leading to heart attack commonly come from non-obstructive plaques.

ABO blood type is a risk factor for coronary heart disease

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Two prospective cohort studies have identified the ABO blood group as a risk factor for the development of heart disease. People with blood groups A, B, or AB were 5-23% more likely to develop coronary heart disease compared with those with O blood type. The study by Dr Meian He from Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA included 62 073 women from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and 27 428 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) and is published in the September 2012 issue of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology.

In the NHS and HPFS, the incident rates of coronary heart disease per 100 000 person-years were 125, 128, 142, and 161 for women with type O, A, B, and AB, respectively, and 373, 382, 387, and 524 for men with type O, A, B, and AB, respectively. Compared with individuals with O blood type, individuals with blood group A, B, or AB had a respective 5%, 11%, and 23% increased risk of developing coronary heart disease in an age-adjusted model.

In non-O individuals, plasma levels of factor VIII-von Willebrand factor (vWF) are approximately 25% higher than in individuals with type O blood type. Elevated levels of factor VIII-vWF have been previously identified as a risk factor for coronary heart disease. The vWF has an important role in hemostasis and thrombosis by mediating platelet adhesion to the vascular wall, especially under high shear stress conditions.