Visualising calcified coronary arteries as a wake-up call to change lifestyle


News - June 15, 2015

Looking at images of their own calcified coronary arteries may be a wake-up call for patients with newly diagnosed coronary artery disease to change their lifestyles, reveals new research. The study was presented today at EuroHeartCare 2015 in Dubrovnik, Croatia by Rikke Elmose Mols, a nurse and PhD student in the Department of Cardiology at Aarhus University Hospital-Skejby in Denmark.
Ms Mols said: “Patients with non-obstructive coronary artery disease and hyperlipidaemia urgently need to improve their lifestyles and take lipid-lowering therapy to reduce their risk of future cardiovascular adverse events. When patients receive a new diagnosis of non-obstructive coronary artery disease it might be a good time to motivate them to take their lipid-lowering therapy and adopt a healthy lifestyle. But until now there has not been a study on the impact of showing consecutive patients with atypical angina images of their calcified coronary arteries as a way to stimulate change.”

The aim of the current prospective, randomised controlled study was to assess the influence of visualisation of coronary artery calcification in addition to standard information about risk and lifestyle modification on plasma cholesterol concentrations and other risk factors in patients with hyperlipidaemia and a new diagnosis of non-obstructive coronary artery disease. The study included 189 patients with hyperlipidaemia who had undergone a CTA of their coronary arteries and been diagnosed with non-obstructive coronary artery disease. Patients were prospectively randomised in a 1:1 fashion to the intervention or to standard follow up in general practice which consisted of information about risk and lifestyle modification. Risk factors were measured at baseline and 6 months.

The intervention was a 25 minute consultation with a nurse. The first 15 minutes focused on communication of risk. Patients were shown a CT image of their calcified coronary arteries. The nurse explained the association between coronary artery calcification and the increased risk of future adverse cardiovascular events. The nurse also described the relationship between cardiovascular risk factors and the development of coronary artery calcification. Ten minutes were then devoted to giving advice about statins, aspirin, blood pressure, healthy diet, physical activity and smoking cessation based on ESC prevention guidelines.

After excluding patients who discontinued statin therapy due to side effects (20 in the control group, 22 in the intervention group) the researchers found a significantly greater reduction in plasma total cholesterol concentrations in the intervention group compared to controls (1.71 mmol/L vs. 1.44 mmol/L, P= 0.027).
More patients in the control group continued smoking (22% vs. 9%, P=0.014) and eating an unhealthy diet (64% vs. 44%, P= 0.005). The intervention group lost 1.5 kg on average while the control group gained an average of 0.5 kg (P= 0.001).There was a tendency towards a higher degree of adherence to statin therapy in the intervention group (P= 0.056).

Ms Mols said:“Seeing their calcified coronary arteries on the CT image was clearly an eye-opener for patients. This may be the wake-up call patients need to take their medication and modify their behaviours to reduce their risk of having a coronary artery event. The results of our study suggest that visualising their health threat motivates patients to make changes to reduce their risk. A large scale study is needed to confirm the findings and to determine the cost-effectiveness of implementing this intervention in clinical practice.”Press release ESC June 15 2015

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