Circulation January 30, 2018 Issue

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Dr. Carolyn Lam: Welcome to Circulation On The Run. Your weekly podcast summary and backstage pass to the journal and its editors. I'm Dr. Carolyn Lam, associate editor from the National Heart Center and Duke National University of Singapore.

In just a moment, we are going to be discussing the diagnostic conundrum of elevated high sensitivity cardiac troponin levels in a patient with renal disease, but also suspected of acute coronary syndrome. Aha! I bet I caught your attention. A very, very familiar diagnostic dilemma. So stay tuned right after these summaries.

Cardiac allograft vasculopathy is the leading cause of death in patients more than five years post cardiac transplantation. It has been hypothesized that cardiac allograft vasculopathy results from interrupted lymphatic drainage post surgery. Since the donor lymphatic vessels are not inesthimozed to that of the recipient during transplantation, thus the lymphatic system may play a crucial role in the alloimmune response.

Well, these hypothesis are addressed in the first paper in today's journal from first author Dr. Edwards, corresponding author Dr. Wong and colleagues from Kings College, London. These authors use spect CT lymphoscintigraphy in a pre-clinical model. And therefore provided objective quantification of lymphatic flow following transplantation and showed that this correlated to cardiac allograft vasculopathy. They demonstrated that cardiac lymphatic remodeling and lymphatic transport dysfunction post transplant was associated with cardiac allograft vasculopathy and transplant rejection.

They further showed that lymphatic flow was increased during chronic rejection. This in turn may have resulted in enhanced trafficking of antigen presenting cells to the local draining lymph nodes in an augmented alloimmune response. Now although the cause and effect of this phenomenon could not be fully established, these data provided the impetus for the investigation of lymphangiogenesis inhibition as a means to dampen chronic rejection.

The absorb bioresorbable vascular scaffold is known to completely resolve within three years after coronary artery implantation. However, what is the safety and effectiveness of these bioresorbable scaffolds during this critical three year period. First author Dr. Ali, corresponding author Dr. Stone and colleagues from Columbia University Medical Center performed an individual patient level meta analysis of the four randomized absorb trial and demonstrated that compared with metallic everolimus eluting stents, the bioresorbable vascular scaffold had higher rates of target lesion failure and device thrombosis cumulatively to three years and between one and three years. Multi-variable analysis identified the number of treated lesions, current tobacco use and previous cardiac interventions as independent predictors of three year target lesion failure. Whereas diabetes was predictive of three year device thrombosis in bioresorbable vascular scaffold treated patients.

The next paper reported the three year follow up of the FAME 2 trial, which compared PCI guided bi-fractional flow reserve with best medical therapy in patients with stable coronary artery disease to assess clinical outcomes and cost effectiveness. First and corresponding author Dr. Fearon and colleagues from Stanford cardiovascular institute showed that major adverse cardiac events at three years were significantly lower in the PCI group, compared with the medical treatment group. This difference was primarily as a result of a lower rate of urgent revascularization. Mean initial costs were higher in the PCI group, but by three years, were similar between the two groups. The incremental cost effectiveness ratio for PCI compared to medical therapy was more than $17,000 per quality adjusted life year at two years and $1,600 per quality adjusted life year at three years. Thus the authors concluded that percutaneous coronary intervention in patients with stable coronary artery disease and at normal fractional flow reserve may be advantages compared to with medical therapy alone, because it results in improved clinical outcomes and quality of life at no increased cost by the end of three years follow up.

The next study shows for the first time, that pioglitazone may prevent stroke as a single stand-alone outcome. Today's paper by first author Dr. Yaghi, corresponding author Dr. Kernan from Yale School of Medicine and colleagues was a secondary analysis of the iris trial, which showed that pioglitazone reduced the risk for a composite outcome of stroke on myocardial infarction among non-diabetic patients with insulin resistant and a recent stroke or transient ischemic attack. Now, the current planned secondary analysis used updated American Heart Association 2013 consensus criteria for ischemic stroke to examine the effect of pioglitazone on stroke outcomes. The study found that pioglitazone reduced the risk by 25% by five years, with absolute rates of 8% with pioglitazone versus 10.7% with placebo. Pioglitazone reduced the risk for ischemic strokes, but had no effect on the risk of hemorrhagic events. These findings add to the evidence that pioglitazone may be a potent therapy for vascular disease risk reduction and may help inform shared decision making by providers and patients for the use of pioglitazone after ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack.

Well, that ends it for our summaries. Now for a feature discussion.

The cardiac troponins have really revolutionized cardiology. We use them in of course the diagnosis of myocardial infarction and in fact the recent European Society of Cardiology recommendations say that the rapid zero and one hour triage algorithm for rule in or rule out of non STEMI should use high sensitivity troponins and interestingly irrespective of renal function. Now this latter point has caused some confusion, some questions, since we all know that patients with chronic kidney disease frequently have higher or increased levels of cardiac troponins, especially since we now can detect them with the high sensitivity essays. And this is even in the absence of an acute coronary syndrome.

Well, this week's journal contains two papers that address this topic so well. And I am delighted to have with us the corresponding author of the first paper, Dr. Christian Mueller from University Hospital Basel in Switzerland and the author of the second paper, Dr. Nicholas Mills from University of Edinburgh in Scotland. For the more, we have Dr. Torbjorn Omland, associate editor from University of Oslo in Norway.

Lot's to talk about. Christian, could I start with you? Could you say in your own words the rationale for looking at this vulnerable population and then perhaps describe what you did in your study?

Dr. Christian Mueller: I'm very thankful that Circulation shed a lot of light on the population of patients with renal dysfunction, because both as a clinician and as a researcher, I'm definitely convinced that they merit a lot of our attention for several reasons.

So first, it's important to be aware that the incidents of acute myocardial infarction among patients presenting with acute chest pain is much higher in patients with renal dysfunction, as compared to patients with normal renal function. And second, atypical clinical presentations also are more frequent in patients with renal dysfunction. Then possibly third, the ECG of course also a mandatory tool in our assessment is more often showing unspecific signs that may mimic or obscure the presence of myocardial infarctions and most of them are related to left ventricular hypertrophy. And in addition, patients with renal dysfunction are more prone to adverse events, both related to cardiovascular medication. For example, anticoagulation as well as our cardiovascular procedures, including PCI. Now again, as both papers have a strong focus on troponin, also cardiac troponin is a bit more difficult to interpret in patients with renal dysfunction related to exactly as you mentioned chronic elevations of cardiac troponin, TNI related to chronic cardiovascular disease.

And I think that's so important to stress, any troponin signal in a patient with renal dysfunction is real and should not be incorrectly attributed to just a problem of impaired secretion by the kidneys.

Dr. Carolyn Lam: So definitely an even greater need to diagnose myocardial infarction accurately in this very high risk population. So tell us what you did.

Dr. Christian Mueller: We assessed this challenging sub group within the APACE study. So APACE is a large international prospective diagnostic study that is run in five countries with 12 centers. And we actually enroll consecutive patients presenting with suspected myocardial infarction. And then all patients get a very detailed workup and then adjudicated final diagnosis. And the adjudicated file diagnosis is done by two independent cardiologists and is based on two enormous extensive sets of data. The clinical data set that has been obtained at the local site and of course includes cardiac imaging and standard troponin testing, ECG data.

In the second set of data that includes the study specific data sets, including serial measurements with high sensitivity carry troponin essay and a lot of details characterization of patients and patient follow up. So this is the reference standard against which the one hour algorithm the European Society of Cardiology evaluated. And the one hour algorithm has been derived and previously validated in overall population. Mainly patients with normal renal function. And so we tried to evaluate the performance of this predefined algorithm specifically in patients with renal dysfunctions.

So among a bit more than 3,000 patients, the prevalence of patients with renal dysfunction was 15%. So we had about 500 patients with renal dysfunction. And the interesting finding from our work is that first the prevalence of N-STEMI was nearly threefold in patients with renal dysfunction as compared to patients with normal renal function. And, fortunately the rule out part of the algorithm regarding sensitivity still works very well. It is, however, the efficacy of rule out that is lower in patients with renal dysfunction, simply because fewer patients really have very low troponin concentration and are therefore ineligible for rule out.

However, as a clinician, the main concern with troponin and renal dysfunction is the rule in part, and specificity. And as you would think, specificity of the one hour algorithm was in fact significantly lower in patients with renal dysfunction. It was still appropriate for therapeutic consequences, but it was lower as compared to patients with normal renal function, so the specificity was 89% in patients with renal dysfunction, as compared to 96.5% in normal renal function.

So the overall efficacy of the algorithm was lower in patients with renal dysfunction, however then when trying to create and derive optimized cut off levels, so all cut off levels optimized for use in renal dysfunction, we didn't really find alternative cut offs that would do a much better job than the official cut off levels recommended in the guidelines. So our conclusion is that in patients with renal dysfunction, the safety of the one hour algorithm still is very high, however the specificity of rule in and overall efficacy are decreased.

Dr. Carolyn Lam: Right. That's beautifully summarized. And also that different cut offs didn't really help to increase the efficacy of this algorithm. And just to clarify to our listeners, I believe you defined renal dysfunction as an estimated GFR of less than 60, which is so beautiful because it's perfectly consistent with the second paper.

Nick, could you please tell us about your study and your take home messages as well.

Dr. Nicholas Mills: So high stakes is our clinical trial that we're conducting across hospitals in Scotland to evaluate the best way to use high levels of cardiac troponin in clinical practice. One of the areas of uncertainty is whether these assets really add any additional value for patients with chronic kidney disease, where troponin concentrations tend to be higher. And the premise of a high sensitive test is that we can measure lower concentrations and improve the sensitivity. But is this just going to create uncertainty for clinicians?

So we evaluated 5,000 consecutive patients for performance of high sensitivity cardiac to put in testing. And those with and without renal impairment. And based upon what Christian, we identified that patients with renal impairment are less likely to have very low concentrations, but that you can rule out myocardial infarction safely in patients with renal impairment. And similarly that those with renal impairment are more likely to have an abnormal troponin concentration at presentation. Around about 40% of all patients have troponins above the upper reference limit. And whilst the specificity for myocardial infarction is lower, type one myocardial infarction or myocardial infarction due to plaque rupture or cardiac thrombosis remains the most common diagnosis in this group.

Finally we looked at one year outcomes. And this is really critical. Because we found that patients with renal impairment were two to threefold more likely to die from cardiovascular disease one year following their presentation than those without renal impairment. And I think that my general experience during these tests in clinical practice is that troponin elevations in patients with kidney disease are often ignored and there's a concern about what they mean, and therefore these patients don't get access to the fantastic treatments we have for coronary heart disease. So our take home message is that high sets of troponin testing in patients with renal disease does have value, it's useful for identifying low risk patients although there are fewer of them, and it performs well as a diagnostic test, highlighting in particular a group of patients that really have poor clinical outcomes.

As a cardiological community, we need to do better.

Dr. Carolyn Lam: What I really love about both or your papers is the consistency in the messages. Torbjorn, I want to bring you in on this. You managed both papers. Such a lovely pair of papers that we're so proud to be publishing and you had also invited an editorial by Dr. deFilippi and Seliger. Would you like to comment on your perspective and perhaps the clinical take home message to our audience?

Dr. Torbjørn Omland: Yes, I think this has been pointed very well out by both Christian and Nick. And I think it's worth recapitulating that renal dysfunction is a major problem that clinicians often try to explain by just lack of renal filtration. But that the closest probably are increased production and underlying cardiac disease. So in the editorial Dr. deFilippi Filippi and Dr. Seliger points also out in these things. Moreover they try to look forward and have made comments to recent studies that showed that in patients with renal dysfunction have different troponin fragments than patients with acute myocardial infarctions.

Dr. Carolyn Lam: I find that so fascinating. And it really, really relates to the field of heart failure and what we are also talking and thinking about with natriuretic peptides and their different fragments and the possible different meanings. And how different essays maybe non specific for different fragments.

Christian, you think a lot about these things. I'm curious, what are your thoughts on this and areas of future work that are very urgent?

Dr. Christian Mueller: I think Torbjorn very nicely addressed this. So the current high sensitivity essays for T and I that we use in clinical practice, they are designed kind of to detect everything in blood that looks like troponin, either T or I, including various fragments. And I think it's a fantastic new avenue of research, trying to find out that the biochemical signatures can be further differentiated and exactly that perhaps different troponin fragments or tricordinate products more prominent in patients having ischemic injuries like treat myocardial infarction, as compared to for example other modes of injuries. So I think that's very nice hypothesis and some early data. But at least from my perspectives and to the best of my knowledge until now, the diagnostic algorithms that we have other ways to approach this in clinical practice. And so it's the higher the blood concentration in patients with acute chest pain, the more likely it's acute myocardial infarction. It's not any chronic disease and again the higher the change from presentation to one hour or two hours, the more likely it's acute as a dynamic disorder resulting in an acute increase in cardiac troponin, as compared to the chronic release patterns typically seen in patients with renal dysfunction.

Dr. Carolyn Lam: Yeah. That's just so fascinating. Nick, we sadly are running out of time, but I do want to give you the last word. The clinical take home message, once again. What do you think listeners should take home that may change their practice, after listening to this podcast?

Dr. Nicholas Mills: I think the key message for clinicians, is that in a patient with suspected acute coronary syndrome and has renal impairment and elevated troponin concentration, serial testing is mandatory to differentiate between those that have chronic myocardial injury due to subclinical heart disease and those that are having acute myocardial injury as a consequence of a presumed acute coronary syndrome. Field testing is critical to inform which treatment path and what investigations we recommend for our patients.

Dr. Carolyn Lam: Wonderful. And to take any elevations seriously, because this is a high risk population.

Well, audience you heard it right here on Circulation On The Run. I'm sure you've enjoyed this. I certainly have. Don't forget to tune in again next week.

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