Incident heart failure linked to HIV infection



People infected with HIV had a 66% increased rate of developing heart failure – compared with matched, uninfected people – that was independent of any other cardiovascular disease risk factor in a study of roughly 425,000 individuals from a large U.S. health care system.

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“HIV infection is independently associated with a higher risk for developing heart failure, and this excess risk does not appear mediated through atherosclerotic disease pathways or differential use of cardioprotective medications,” Alan S. Go, MD, said at the 22nd International AIDS Conference.

The finding sends two important messages to physicians who care for people living with HIV, Dr. Go said in a video interview. First, have “greater awareness for the risk of heart failure” in people living with HIV, even in those who have excellent [HIV] treatment. Be on the lookout, he recommended, for classic symptoms of heart failure like dyspnea and fatigue, and if found follow-up with an assessment of heart function, usually by echocardiography. The second message is to pay attention to and aggressively treat risk factors for heart failure, such as hypertension, smoking, obesity, diabetes, and hypercholesterolemia, said Dr. Go, director of the Comprehensive Clinical Research Unit of Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif.

Results from a small number of prior studies also suggested an increased heart failure rate in people infected with HIV, but those reports had not been able to untangle this observed increase from a possible relationship to the elevated rate of MIs among people living with HIV. The study led by Dr. Go adjusted for acute coronary syndrome events that occurred during follow-up in the analysis and this showed that the increased incidence of heart failure occurred independently of any preceding MI or unstable angina event.

Dr. Go proposed several potential mechanisms that could tie HIV infection to an elevated heart failure risk that was not linked to a prior ischemic heart disease event. The virus could directly damage cardiac myocytes to produce fibrosis, the virus could trigger cardiac inflammation, and the infected person could have an increased susceptibility to infection by a pathogen know to potentially cause cardiac damage and myocarditis such as coxsackievirus.

For the time being, patients infected by HIV who develop heart failure should receive the same treatments that are recommended for the general population, Dr. Go said, but he also highlighted the need for further study to determine the effectiveness of standard heart failure treatments specifically in people living with HIV. He and his associates are also currently analyzing the relationship of several other variables to the risk for heart failure in HIV-infected people, such as the degree of HIV control, and the types of antiretroviral therapy that patients receive. So far the study has not shown a relationship between HIV infection and any specific type of heart failure. About a quarter of the HIV-infected people who developed heart failure in this study had reduced left ventricular ejection fraction, about a quarter had preserved ejection fraction, and for the remaining patients information on their left ventricular ejection fraction was not available, Dr. Go said.

The Kaiser Permanente HIV Heart Study used data from health records from about 13.5 million people enrolled in the health system during 2000-2016 at locations in northern California, southern California, or the mid-Atlantic region. From these records the researchers identified 38,868 people diagnosed with an HIV infection, free of a heart failure diagnosis, and at least 21 years old, and matched them by age, sex, and race with 386,586 people in the health system who were both uninfected and free of heart failure. At “baseline” in the analysis the two study groups had very similar rates of smoking, but those with HIV had somewhat more alcohol abuse and nearly twice the rate of illicit drug use, although even among those with HIV this rate was low at 4%.

Some clinical characteristics at baseline showed significant differences between the two groups. People living with HIV had substantially less hypertension, 7% compared with 12% in those without HIV; half the rate of dyslipidemia, 8% compared with 16% among the control group; and nearly half the prevalence of diabetes, 3% versus 5% among those without HIV. On the other hand, certain other clinical characteristics were more common among those with HIV. The prevalence at baseline of diagnosed dementia was 15% among people infected with HIV and essentially nonexistent (less than 1%) among controls, and the prevalence of diagnosed depression was 8% among people with HIV and 5% among those without the infection.

Baseline parameters also showed that at the time this review first identified a person with HIV and without heart failure in the system records only 18% of the HIV-infected individuals were on an antiretroviral therapy regimen. Dr. Go said that the study is currently analyzing subsequent HIV treatments that these patients may have received. Also at “baseline” 13% of people with documented HIV infection had a CD4 cell count of fewer than 200 cell/mm3, with 4% having fewer than 50 CD4 cells/mm3, and 29% of those with HIV had a blood level of at least 500 copies of HIV RNA/mL. In addition, information on CD4 cell counts was unavailable for 43% of these people, and information on viral load was unavailable for about half.

During “follow-up” in the system’s medical records for a period of up to 17 years, diagnoses of incident heart failure accumulated significantly faster among people with HIV compared to those without HIV. After adjustment for demographic differences, the time of entry into the health system, cardiovascular and other medical differences, and differences in medication use, people living with HIV had a 75% higher rate of incident heart failure compared with those without HIV. Further adjustment based on incident first episodes of acute coronary syndrome during “follow-up” brought the excess rate of heart failure to 66% higher among people infected by HIV, Dr. Go reported. He cautioned that the findings came from a U.S. population that had access to comprehensive health care.

SOURCE: Go AS et al. AIDS 2018, Abstract 2778, THAB0103.

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