My patient is asking about the benefits of smoking cessation. How soon should she realize the health benefits of quitting her habit?

She should realize the health benefits of smoking cessation (SC) almost immediately! As the effect of nicotine wears off, just 15-20 minutes after her last cigarette, her heart rate and blood pressure should begin to fall.1,2Other health benefits, some within a year others longer, soon follow. 3,4 Between 2-12 weeks after SC, your patient may notice an improvement in her breathing and pulmonary function tests.

Between 1-9 months, the cilia in the lungs should begin to regenerate and regain normal function, allowing her to adequately clear mucus and bacteria with a decrease in cough and shortness of breath.

At 1 year, the risk of cardiovascular disease (eg, myocardial infarction, stroke) falls by one-half.

At 5 years, the risk of mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder cancer also drops by one-half.

It takes 10 years for the risk of lung cancer to drop by one-half, and 15 years for it to approach that of non-smokers asymptotically. 4Fun fact: Did you know that in hypertensive patients who smoke, the blood pressure lowering effect of beta-blockers may be partly abolished by tobacco smoking,  whereas alpha-blockers may maintain their antihypertensive effects? 5References

  1. Omvik P. How smoking affects blood pressure. Blood Press. 1996;5:71–77. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9162447
  2. Mahmud A, Feely J. Effect of smoking on arterial stiffness and pulse pressure amplification. Hypertension. 2003;41(1):183-187. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12511550
  3. US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp. 193, 194, 196, 285, 323
  4. US Surgeon General’s Report, 2010 and World Health Organization. Tobacco Control: Reversal of Risk After Quitting Smoking. IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention, Vol. 11. 2007, p. 341.
  5. Trap-Jensen. Effects of smoking on the heart and peripheral circulation. Am Heart J 1988;115:263-7.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3276115

Contributed by Felicia Hsu, Medical Student, Harvard Medical School

My patient is asking about the benefits of smoking cessation. How soon should she realize the health benefits of quitting her habit?

How does hyperventilation cause coronary vasospasm?

Hyperventilation may be an important cause of coronary vasospasm and chest pain. 1 The mechanism likely revolves around the competition between the effects of hydrogen and calcium ions on the smooth muscle of coronary arteries. 2

Respiratory alkalosis induced by hyperventilation causes a reduction of hydrogen ions which, under physiologic conditions, compete with calcium ion, an important trigger for arterial smooth muscle contraction. Lower hydrogen ion concentrations tips the balance in favor of calcium’s effects on transmembrane channels and myofibrillar ATP-ase of the smooth muscle and causes vasoconstriction.2

In fact, hyperventilation has been used to reproduce coronary spasm during angiography in patients with non-obstructive coronary artery disease and angina symptoms.The efficacy of hyperventilation in inducing an alkalotic state during this test is verified by obtaining an arterial blood gas after 6-minutes of hyperventilation.  A basic Tris-buffer to enhance alkalotic provocation was also used in earlier studies. 2

In addition to producing spasm and angina, hyperventilation-induced alkalosis has been associated with frank transmural myocardial infarction and ischemia-related arrhythmias such as ventricular tachycardia. 2,4,5

So in the appropriate context, hyperventilation may not be so benign!

References:

  1. Freeman LJ, Nixon PGF. Chest pain and the hyperventilation syndrome-some aetiologic considerations. Postgrad Med J 1985;61:957-61. http://pmj.bmj.com/content/postgradmedj/61/721/957.full.pdf
  2. Yasue HM, Nagao S, Omote A, et al. Coronary arterial spasm and Prinzmetal’s variant form of angina induced by hyperventilation and Tris-buffer infusion. Circulation 1978;58:56-62. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25720
  3. Zaya M, Mehta PK, Merz NB, etal. Provocative testing for coronary reactivity and spasm. J Am Coll Cardiol 2014; 63:103-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3914306/pdf/nihms549572.pdf
  4. Magarian GJ, Jones S, Calverley T. Hyperventilation testing for coronary vasospasm: induction of spontaneous ventricular tachycardia in association with transmural ischemia without obstructive coronary disease. 1990; 120:1447-49. http://journal.chestnet.org/article/S0012-3692(16)52837-2/pdf
  5. Chelmowski MK, Keelan MH. Hyperventilation and myocardial infarction. Chest 1988;93:1095-96. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3359829

 

 

Contributed by Ramya Chitra Mosarla, Medical Student, Harvard Medical School

How does hyperventilation cause coronary vasospasm?

Does methotrexate reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in patients with rheumatoid arthritis?

The weight of the evidence suggests that methotrexate reduces the overall risk of cardiovascular events (CVEs)—including myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, stroke, and or major adverse cardiac events—in RA patients (RR 0.72, 95% CI 0.57-0.91)1.

Aside from its effect on controlling systemic inflammation, methotrexate has also been shown to increase HDL and reduce total cholesterol/HDL ratio in patients with RA compared with treated non-RA controls2. In vitro, methotrexate appears to activate mechanisms involved in reverse transport of cholesterol out of the cell to the circulation for eventual excretion3. Not surprisingly then, methotrexate has also been reported to decrease atherosclerotic plaque burden measured by carotid artery intima-media thickness2.

We tend to think of RA as a disease that primarily causes arthritis but its effects may extend far beyond the joints. Patients with RA have an increased risk of cardiovascular deaths compared to the general population4, likely due to a variety of factors, including accelerated atherosclerosis secondary to chronic inflammation. At baseline, RA patients also have an unfavorable lipid profile with decreased HDL and higher total cholesterol/HDL ratio.

Fun Final Fact: Did you know that methotrexate is on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (April 2015) not only as a cancer drug but for treatment of RA as well5?

References:

  1. Roubille C, Richer V, Starnino T, McCourt C, McFarlane A, Fleming P, Siu S, Kraft J, Lynde C, Pope J, Gulliver W, Keeling S, Dutz J, Bessette L, Bissonnette R, Haraoui B. The effects of tumour necrosis factor inhibitors, methotrexate, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids on cardiovascular events in rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2015;74:480-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25561362
  2. Georgiadis AN, Voulgari PV, Argyropoulou MI, Alamanos Y, Elisaf M, Tselepis AD, Drosos AA. Early treatment reduces the cardiovascular risk factors in newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis patients. Semin Arthritis Rheum 2008;38:13-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18191989
  3. Reiss AB, Carsons SE, Anwar K, Rao S, Edelman SD, Zhang H, Fernandez P, Cronstein BN, Chan ES. Atheroprotective effects of methotrexate on reverse cholesterol transport proteins and foam cell transformation in human THP-1 monocyte/macrophages. Arthritis Rheum 2008;58:3675-83. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19035488
  4. Aviña-Zubieta JA, Choi HK, Sadatsafavi M, Etminan M, Esdaile JM, Lacaille D. Risk of cardiovascular mortality in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Arthritis Rheum 2008; 59:1690-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19035419
  5. WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (April 2015). http://www.who.int/medicines/publications/essentialmedicines/en/

 

Contributed by Brian Li, Medical Student, Harvard Medical School

Does methotrexate reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in patients with rheumatoid arthritis?

Why should I pay attention to the augmented vector right (aVR) EKG lead in my patient with chest pain?

Lead aVR is often “neglected” because of its non-adjacent location to other EKG leads (Fig 1) and poor awareness of its potential utility in detecting myocardial ischemia.

In acute coronary syndrome (ACS), ST-elevation (STE) in aVR (≥1mm) with diffuse ST depression in other leads (Fig 2) is usually a sign of severe left main coronary artery (LMCA), proximal left anterior descending (LAD), or 3-vessel coronary disease, and is associated with poor prognosis1-3.  In some patients with LMCA thrombosis, the EKG changes may be non-specific but STE in aVR should still raise suspicion for ischemia1.  Possible mechanisms for STE in aVR include diffuse anterolateral subendocardial ischemia or transmural infarction of the basal portion of the heart. 

The possibility of an anatomical variant of the Purkinje fibers leading to the absence of STE in the anterior leads in some patients with transmural anterior infarction is another reason to pay attention to aVR.

 

Fig 1. Standard EKG limb leads. Note that aVR is “in the fringes”.

ekggreatwork

Fig 2. 35 year old female with ACS due to LMCA spasm. Note STE in aVR with ST segment depression in leads V3-6, I, aVL, II, and aVF  (Courtesy National Library of Medicine)

ekgavr

 

References

  1. Kossaify A. ST segment elevation in aVR: clinical syndrome in acute coronary syndrome. Clin Med Insights: Case Reports 2013:6.
  2. Kireyev D, Arkhipov MV, Zador ST. Clinical utility of aVR-the neglected electrocardiographic lead. Ann Noninvasive Electrocardiol 2010;15:175-180.
  3. Wong –CK, Gao W, Stewart RAH, et al. aVR ST elevation: an important but neglected sign in ST elevation acute myocardial infarction. Eur Heart J 2010;31:1845-1853.
  4. De Winter RJ, Verouden NJ, Wellens HJ, et al. A new ECG sign of proximal LAD occlusion. N Engl J Med 2008;359:2071-3.

 

Why should I pay attention to the augmented vector right (aVR) EKG lead in my patient with chest pain?

My patient just had a run of ventricular tachycardia (VT) at a rate of 120 beats/min lasting 18 seconds without any symptoms. Does this arrhythmia meet the criteria for nonsustained VT (NSVT) and what is its significance?

Although NSVT is often defined as 3 (sometimes 5) or more consecutive beats arising below the atrioventricular node with a heart rate >100 beats/min lasting <30 s, this definition is not universal. Other definitions of NSVT include >120 beats/min using a duration cutoff of 15 s,  or at times no strictly defined diagnostic criteria1.  

NSVT can be observed in a variety of individuals, ranging from apparently healthy people to those with significant heart disease.  Whether NSVT provokes sustained life-threatening arrhythmias or is merely a surrogate marker of a more severe underlying cardiac pathology is unclear in most clinical settings 1

Because our patient  meets the generally observed criteria for NSVT, we should exclude an underlying occult pathology responsible for the arrhythmia and, in the case of known cardiac disease,  risk-stratify the patient for appropriate management2.  

The prognostic significance of NSVT is heavily influenced by the type and severity of underlying heart disease.  Patients with NSVT in the setting of >24 h post-acute myocardial infarction and those with chronic ischemic heart disease with left ventricular ejection fraction <40%  have a less desirable prognosis2. The management of patients with NSVT is generally aimed at treating the underlying heart disease.

References

  1. Katritsis DG, Zareba W, Camm AJ. Nonsustained ventricular tachycardia. J Am Coll Cardiol 2012;60:1993-2004.
  2. Katritisis DG, Camm AJ. Nonsustained ventricular tachycardia: where do we stand? Eur Heart J 2004;25:1093-1099.
My patient just had a run of ventricular tachycardia (VT) at a rate of 120 beats/min lasting 18 seconds without any symptoms. Does this arrhythmia meet the criteria for nonsustained VT (NSVT) and what is its significance?

Is there a seasonal variation in the incidence of cardiovascular (CV) events or venous thromboembolism (VTE)?

Seasonal variation, primarily characterized by a winter peak, has been reported for acute CV events, such as acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and sudden death, aortic rupture or dissection, and ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, and VTE (1). A meta-analysis involving patients with VTE, primarily with a diagnosis of pulmonary embolism, revealed a 20% absolute increase in the incidence of VTE during January (1).  

Potential physiological mechanisms for these observations include increased sympathetic activity, decreased loss of fluids and sodium, increase in LDL cholesterol, increase in serum fibrinogen levels and other coagulation markers and C-reactive protein, and lower vitamin D levels due to shorter daylight hours during winter months (1,2).  At least in the case of AMI in the U.S., the higher incidence in winter is not affected by climate (2).  

Respiratory virus infections as a cause of acute inflammation leading to  CV or VTE events is another intriguing explanation (3). Indeed, influenza vaccination has been associated with reduction in hospitalization for cardiac disease and stroke among the elderly (4) and, in patients with cardiovascular disease, a reduction in death due to combined cardiovascular disease events such as heart attacks and strokes (5).

 

 

References

  1. Dentali F, Ageno W, Rancan E, et al. Seasonal and monthly variability in the incidence of venous thromboembolism. A systematic review and a meta-analysis of the literature. Thromb Haemost 2011;106:439-447. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21725580
  2. Spencer FA, Goldberg RJ, Becker RC, et al. Seasonal distribution of acute myocardial infarction in the Second National Registry of Myocardial Infarction. J Am Coll Cardiol 1998;31:1226-33.h ttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9581712
  3. Woodhouse PR, Khaw KT, Plummer M, et al. Seasonal variations of plasma fibrinogen and factor VII activity in the elderly: winter infections and death from cardiovascular disease. Lancet 1994;343:435-39.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7508540
  4. Nichol KL, Nordin J, Mulloly J, et al. Influenza vaccination and reduction in hospitalization for cardiac disease and stroke among the elderly. N Engl J Med 2003; 348:1322-1332. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa025028
  5. Clar C, Oseni Z, Flowers N, et al. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005050.pub3h ttp://www.cochrane.org/CD005050/VASC_flu-vaccines-for-preventing-cardiovascular-disease  

 

 

 

 

Is there a seasonal variation in the incidence of cardiovascular (CV) events or venous thromboembolism (VTE)?

How do I interpret an elevated serum C-reactive protein (CRP) and normal erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or vice-versa?

Discordance between serum CRP and ESR is not uncommon (1,2). This phenomenon may be due to a variety of factors including the fact that the kinetics of these two tests is quite different, as discussed under “Should I order C-reactive protein (CRP) or erythrocyte sedimentation (ESR) on patients suspected of having a new infection?” in this blog.

In a study of CRP/ESR discordance (defined as results differing by 2 or 3 quartiles) in adults, a high CRP/low ESR profile was more likely to be associated with  urinary, GI, blood stream, and pulmonary infections, myocardial infarction, and venous thromboembolism and less likely to be associated with bone and joint infections (1).

In the same study, a high ESR/low CRP was associated with connective tissue diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and strokes (1).

1. Feldman M, Aziz B, Kang GN, et al. C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate discordance: frequency and causes in adults. Translational Research 2013;161:37-43. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22921838

2. Colombet I, Pouchot J, Kronz V. Agreement between erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein in hospital practice. Am J Med 2010;123:864.e7-863.e13.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20800157

How do I interpret an elevated serum C-reactive protein (CRP) and normal erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or vice-versa?