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Circulation. 2002 Apr 2;105(13):1567-72.

Risk stratification for postoperative cardiovascular events via noninvasive assessment of endothelial function: a prospective study.

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Evans Department of Medicine and Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02118, USA.



Brachial artery endothelial function is impaired in individuals with atherosclerosis and coronary risk factors and improves with risk reduction therapy. However, the predictive value of brachial artery endothelial dysfunction for future cardiovascular events is unknown.


We preoperatively examined brachial artery vasodilation using ultrasound in 187 patients undergoing vascular surgery. Patients were prospectively followed for 30 days after surgery. Forty-five patients had a postoperative event, including cardiac death (3), myocardial infarction (12), unstable angina/ischemic ventricular fibrillation (2), stroke (3), or elevated troponin I, reflecting myocardial necrosis (25). Preoperative endothelium-dependent flow-mediated dilation was significantly lower in patients with an event (4.9+/-3.1%) than in those without an event (7.3+/-5%; P<0.001), whereas endothelium-independent vasodilation to nitroglycerin was similar in both groups. In a Cox proportional-hazards model, the independent predictors of events were age (P=0.001), renal insufficiency (P=0.03), noncarotid surgery (P=0.05), and lower brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (P=0.007). If troponin I elevation was not considered an event, low flow-mediated dilation remained an independent predictor of risk (odds ratio 9.0, 95% CI 1.2 to 68; P=0.03). When a flow-mediated dilation cutpoint of 8.1% was used, endothelial function had a sensitivity of 95%, specificity of 37%, and negative predictive value of 98% for events.


Impaired brachial artery endothelial function independently predicts postoperative cardiac events, which supports a role for endothelial dysfunction in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease. The strong negative predictive value of preserved endothelial function raises the possibility that assessment of brachial artery flow-mediated dilation will be useful in the management of patients undergoing vascular surgery.

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