Functional significance of intimal thickening as detected by intravascular ultrasound early and late after cardiac transplantation.
BACKGROUND Detection of transplant coronary disease remains difficult. Both intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) imaging and functional coronary vasomotion studies have been used to evaluate this process. However, the time course of intimal thickening as assessed by IVUS and the relation between structure and function have not been explored.
METHODS AND RESULTS In 40 patients 1 to 8 years after transplantation, 108 coronary artery segments were analyzed by IVUS. Intimal index [% intimal area (lumen+intimal area)] and maximal thickness were used to quantify intimal thickening. Abnormal IVUS was present in 53 of 108 segments (49%) (mean intimal index of diseased segments, 23 +/- 2%; maximal thickness, 530 +/- 47 microns). For those patients with intimal thickening in all segments of the analyzed artery, more time had elapsed since transplantation (4.3 +/- 0.6 years) than for those whose arteries contained some normal (2.6 +/- 0.3 years) or all normal segments (2.2 +/- 0.6 years, P < .05). Both the proportion of segments with intimal thickening and the degree of thickening increased as a function of time after transplantation (P < .5). By multivariate analysis, the independent predictors of intimal thickening were increasing time after transplantation and pretransplantation hypercholesterolemia (P = .02). Within the cohort of 40 patients, endothelium-dependent vasomotor function was evaluated in 26 matched segments from 11 patients studied 1 year after transplantation and in 15 matched segments from 8 patients studied > or = 5 years after transplantation by serial infusions of acetylcholine (10(-8) to 10(-6) mol/L). Of the 26 segments assessed for structure/function correlation at 1 year after transplantation, 22 had no intimal thickening by IVUS. However, endothelial dysfunction was present in 13 of these normal segments (mean diameter constriction, 18.8 +/- 2.3%). Of the 15 segments studied > or = 5 years after transplantation, 11 had intimal thickening. Nine of these 11 segments had preserved endothelial function (mean diameter dilation, 8.6 +/- 2.9%). There was no relation between the degree of intimal thickening and the magnitude of the endothelium-dependent response to acetylcholine.
CONCLUSIONS This study has shown that intimal thickening after transplantation begins as a heterogeneous process and increases in extent and magnitude over time. Also, endothelial dysfunction occurs early before the intimal thickening; yet in those patients surviving > or = 5 years, endothelial function may recover even in the presence of moderate intimal pathology. The variable relation between intimal pathology and endothelial function is probably a result of the episodic nature of immune injury.
- Copyright © 1993 by American Heart Association