Dr. Terje R Pedersen
Dr. Anne B Rossebo
Calcific aortic stenosis has – in all stages of the disease - been recognised as an active inflammatory process, closely associated with atherosclerotic diseases. Statins have been demonstrated to influence several components in the inflammatory process, to slow progression, and to reduce cardiovascular risk.
Aortic valve stenosis (AS) is the most frequently encountered valve disease in the developed world, affecting about 3-5% of the population above 75 years with at least moderate AS. Because populations there are aging, this represents a considerable health problem as well as a socio-economical burden, and the only current therapy for this progressive condition in symptomatic patients is still surgery. Without surgery, symptomatic AS patients face a poor prognosis.
Over recent years, the understanding of and potential therapeutic options for AS have changed dramatically. Calcific aortic stenosis has – in all stages of the disease spectrum - been recognised as an active inflammatory process, closely associated with atherosclerotic diseases. This has been demonstrated through :
Statins have been demonstrated to influence several components in the inflammatory process:
- latest by Dr. Osman et al, who demonstrated the influence of atorvastatin on human valve interstitial cells involved in valve calcification.
This finding opens up the potential of retarding the process through interventional strategies7. A number of studies have focused on various risk factors for progression, demonstrating that a rapid rate of stenosis progression, severe valve calcification and aortic valve jet velocity > 3 m/s are the best predictors of outcome8-10.
Calcific aortic valve disease represents an elevated cardiovascular risk, which goes beyond the hemodynamic obstruction itself.
From the Cardiovascular Health Study as well as in works by Dr.Rosenhek et al it has been demonstrated that even the early stages of aortic valve remodelling, commonly referred to as aortic sclerosis, is not just a benign disease, but bears considerable CVD risk – 50% increase in the risk of cardiovascular death11, 12. Even mild to moderate AS bears a 1.8 times higher mortality than an age- and gender-matched control population according to Rosenhek at al9.
The mechanism of this increased cardiovascular risk remains unclear, but it has been demonstrated that aortic valve disease is associated with endothelial dysfunction13. This represents a considerable cardiovascular burden, knowing that 25% of adults over 65 years have some degree of aortic sclerosis, and that 16% of these progress to hemodynamically significant AS over 7 years.
Likewise, it has been demonstrated that aortic valve sclerosis even without obstruction is significantly associated with coronary artery disease and as such might serve as a “window” to detect coronary atherosclerotic disease.
There has been a considerable focus over the latter years to find means of medical therapy to slow AS progression and/or rate of aortic valve replacement.
Lipid lowering therapy by statins has received most attention, after demonstrating a reduced progression rate in several retrospective studies. The first prospective study with statins, the SALTIRE study14 however demonstrated no effect, though this might imply that treatment should start in the early stages, or the duration was too short to observe any effect.
For coronary heart disease, “lower has proven better” in the overall trial cohorts, with improved prognosis by lowering cholesterol even when cholesterol is not very elevated. Non-lipid or pleiotropic effects of statins on cardiovascular risk have been postulated, possibly through improvement of endothelial dysfunction. A possible anti-inflammatory effect of statins have also been forwarded. The same may apply also to aortic valve stenosis13, 15.
Recently it was demonstrated that endothelial dysfunction in calcified aortic stenosis persists beyond aortic valve replacement16. This might imply that medical therapy, and statin therapy in particular, might be beneficial in aortic valve disease at all stages of the disease, to slow progression, and to reduce cardiovascular risk, morbidity and mortality, possibly even after AVR. This remains to be demonstrated in larger, long-term prospective trials. To date the ASTRONOMER and SEAS trials are ongoing and hopefully will provide answer in the near future.
The content of this article reflects the personal opinion of the author/s and is not necessarily the official position of the European Society of Cardiology.
(1) Lindroos M, Kupari M, Valvanne J, Strandberg T, Heikkila J, Tilvis R. Factors associated with calcific aortic valve degeneration in the elderly. Eur Heart J 1994;15:865-870. (2) Stewart BF, Siscovick D, Lind BK, Gardin JM, Gottdiener JS, Smith VE, Kitzman DW, Otto CM. Clinical factors associated with calcific aortic valve disease. J Am Coll Cardiol 1997;29:630-634. (3) O'Brien KD. Pathogenesis of Calcific Aortic Valve Disease. A Disease Process Comes of Age (and a Good Deal More). Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2006;26:1721-1728. (4) Rajamannan NM, Subramaniam M, Springett M, Sebo TC, Niekrasz M, McConnell JP, et al. Atorvastatin inhibits hypercholesterolemia-induced cellular proliferation and bone matrix production in the rabbit aortic valve. Circulation 2002;105(22):2660-2665. (5) Novaro GM, Griffin BP. Calcific aortic stenosis. Another face of atherosclerosis. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine 2003;70(5):471-477. (6) Weiss RM, Ohashi M, Miller JD, Young SG, Heistad DD. Calcific Aortic Valve Stenosis in Old Hypercholesterolemic Mice. Circulation 2006;114:2065-2069. (7) Osman L, Yacoub MH, Latif N, Amrani M, Chester AH. Role of Human Valve Interstitial Cells in Valve Calcification and Their Response to Atorvastatin. Circulation 2006;114:I-547-I-552. (8) Otto CM, Burwash IG, Legget ME, Munt BI, Fujioka M, Healy NL, Kraft CD, Miyake-Hull CY, Schwaegler RG. A Prospective Study of Asymptomatic Valvular Aortic Stenosis: clinical, echocardiographic, and exercise predictors of outcome. Circulation 1997;95:2262-2270. (9) Rosenhek R, Binder T, Porenta G, Lang I, Christ G, Schemper M, Maurer G. Predictors of outcome in severe, asymptomatic aortic stenosis. N Engl J Med 2000;343:611-617. (10) Rosenhek R, Klaar U, Scholten C, Heger M, Gabriel H, Schemper M, Binder T, Baumgartner H. Mild and moderate aortic stenosis: natural history and risk stratification by echocardiography. Eur Heart J 2004;25:199-205.(11) Otto CM, Lind BK, Kitzman DW, Gersh BJ, Siscovick DS, The Cardiovascular Health Study. Association of aortic valve sclerosis with cardiovascular mortality and morbidity in the elderly. N Engl J Med 1999;341:142-147. (12) Otto CM. Aortic stenosis: even mild disease is significant. Eur Heart J 2004;25(3):185-187. (13) Poggianti E, Venneri L, Chubuchny V, Jambrik Z, Baroncini LA, Picano E. Aortic Valve Sclerosis Is Associated With Systemic Endothelial Dysfunction. J Am Coll Cardiol 2003;41:136-141. (14) Cowell SJ, Newby DE, Prescott RJ, Bloomfield P, Reid J, Northridge B, Boon A, SALTIRE Investigators. A randomized trial of intensive lipid-lowering therapy in calcific aortic stenosis. N Engl J Med 2005;352(23):2389-2397. (15) Galante A, Pietroiusti A, Vellini M, Piccolo P, Possati G, De Bonis M, Grillo RL, Fontana C, Favalli C. C-reactive protein is elevated in patients with degenerative aortic valvular stenosis. J Am Coll Cardiol 2001;38:1078-1082. (16) Chenevard R, Bechir M, Hurlimann D, Ruschitzka F, Turina j, Luscher TF, Noll G. Persistent endothelial dysfunction in calcified aortic stenosis beyond valve replacement surgery. Heart 2006;92:1862-1863.
Dr. Anne B. Rossebo1, Prof. Dan Atar1, Prof. Terje R. Pedersen2
1 Division of Cardiology, Aker University Hospital, Oslo, Norway 2 Centre for Preventive Medicine, Ullevål University Hospital, Oslo, Norway
Our mission: To reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease
© 2017 European Society of Cardiology. All rights reserved