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Background: A coronary artery calcium (CAC) score of zero confers a low but nonzero risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular events (CVD) in asymptomatic patient populations, and additional risk stratification is needed to guide preventive interventions. Soluble tumor necrosis factor receptors (sTNFR-1 and sTNFR-2) are shed in the context of TNF-alpha signaling and systemic inflammation, which play a role in atherosclerosis and plaque instability. We hypothesized that serum sTNFR-1 concentrations may aid in cardiovascular risk stratification among asymptomatic patients with a CAC score of zero.
Methods: We included all participants with CAC=0 and baseline sTNFR-1 measurements from the prospective cohort Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). The primary outcome was a composite CVD event (myocardial infarction, stroke, coronary revascularization, cardiovascular death).
Results: The study included 1471 participants (mean age 57.6 years, 64% female), with measured baseline sTNFR-1 ranging from 603 pg/mL to 5544 pg/mL (mean 1294 pg/mL ±378.8 pg/mL). Over a median follow-up of 8.5 years, 37 participants (2.5%) experienced a CVD event. In multivariable analyses adjusted for Framingham Score, doubling of sTNFR-1 was associated with a 3-fold increase in the hazards of CVD (HR 3.0, 95% CI: 1.48- 6.09, P = 0.002), which remained significant after adjusting for traditional CVD risk factors individually (HR 2.29; 95% CI: 1.04-5.06, P=0.04). Doubling of sTNFR-1 was also associated with progression of CAC >100, adjusted for age (OR 2.84, 95% CI: 1.33-6.03, P=0.007).
Conclusions: sTNFR-1 concentrations are associated with more CVD events in participants with a CAC score of zero. Utilizing sTNFR-1 measurements may improve cardiovascular risk stratification and guide primary prevention in otherwise low-risk individuals.
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