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Early coronary disease, impaired heart function found in asymptomatic people with HIV

Coronary artery vessel wall thickness was also associated with the duration of exposure to didanosine, one of the medications used in combination with other drugs for the treatment of HIV.

Photo by Vidit Goswami from Unsplash.com

A new study found

There is increased coronary vessel wall thickness significantly associated with impaired diastolic function in asymptomatic, middle-aged individuals living with HIV.

This is according to a study – “Association of Coronary Wall Thickening and Diminished Diastolic Function in Asymptomatic, Low Cardiovascular Disease-Risk Persons Living with HIV” by Ahmed M. Gharib, Khaled Z. Abd-Elmoniem, Hadjira Ishaq, Julia Purdy, Jatin Matta, Ahmed Hamimi, Hwaida Hannoush, and Colleen Hadigan – that was published in Radiology: Cardiothoracic Imaging, a journal of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

As effective therapy drugs increase the life expectancy for people living with HIV, non-AIDS-related health concerns are increasingly common. Recent research has shown that cardiovascular disease is higher in persons living with HIV compared with individuals without HIV, with an estimated 4-fold higher rate of sudden cardiac death compared with the general population.

The researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) set out to assess early coronary atherosclerosis burden, and its relation to how the heart is functioning, in people living with HIV who were asymptomatic and had low cardiovascular disease risk. For the study, they recruited 74 adults (mean age of 49 years) living with HIV without known cardiovascular disease and 25 matched healthy controls (mean age of 46 years). Controls were negative for HIV and were required to be healthy with no known significant medical conditions, including coronary disease. All underwent MRI to measure coronary vessel wall thickness and an echocardiogram to assess left ventricular function.

The results showed increased coronary vessel wall thickness in the HIV group, compared to controls. The increased coronary artery vessel wall thickness was independently associated with elevated left ventricular mass index and impaired diastolic function.

“The ability to detect early coronary artery disease in persons living with HIV and potentially prevent detrimental effects on the heart muscle is important,” said lead author Abd-Elmoniem. “This research shows the impact of HIV on developing subtle subclinical coronary artery disease and its effects on heart function.”

The researchers emphasized that early identification of subclinical cardiovascular disease in young HIV patients is an urgent necessity, potentially opening avenues for more effective intervention and disease management.

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