Current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance harms and benefits of adding ankle-brachial index, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, or coronary artery calcium burden to traditional cardiovascular disease risk scores for asymptomatic adults, according to the United States Preventive Services Task Force.
USPSTF did note that many of the comments to its draft document “provided evidence that risk assessment with CAC [coronary artery calcium] was strong enough to warrant a separate, more positive recommendation” and “is useful for patients whose risk stratification is unclear or for those who fall into intermediate-risk groups.” However, evidence is inadequate that this would translate into improved health outcomes in asymptomatic patients.
Meanwhile, treatment decisions guided by the markers have not been shown to reduce cardiovascular events or mortality. There are no trials evaluating the additional benefit of adding the ankle-brachial index (ABI), high-sensitivity C-reactive level (hsCRP), or CAC score to traditional risk assessment models.
The USPSTF recommended “that clinicians use theto assess CVD risk and to guide treatment decisions until further evidence is available,” noting that these equations, introduced in 2013, were developed using more contemporary and diverse cohort data than were the older . Traditional CVD risk factors include age, sex, high blood pressure, current smoking, abnormal cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity, and physical inactivity.
The work replaces the group’s 2009 statement on nontraditional risk factors, which also was considered an I statement, for inadequate evidence. Unlike that document, the new work focused on ABI, hsCRP level, and CAC because these offer the most promising evidence base and are independently associated with CVD events.
The group noted that testing for hsCRP level and ABI is noninvasive, with little direct harm. Harms of testing for CAC score include exposure to radiation and incidental findings on CT of the chest, such as pulmonary nodules, that may lead to further invasive testing and procedures, among other problems.
The ABI is the ratio of the systolic blood pressure at the ankle to the systolic blood pressure in the arm while the patient is lying down; a value less than 1 is abnormal. High-sensitivity CRP is a serum protein involved in inflammatory and immune responses. Coronary artery calcium score is a measure of calcium content in the coronary arteries.
Good-quality studies that compare traditional risk assessment with ABI, hsCRP level, or CAC scores “are needed to measure the effect of adding nontraditional risk factors on clinical decision thresholds and patient outcomes, especially in more diverse populations (women, racial/ethnic minorities, persons of lower socioeconomic status), in whom assessment of nontraditional risk factors may help address the shortcomings of traditional risk models,” USPSTF said.
The group is funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.