A Sound Heart

Stress echo ultrasound determines heart attack risk in HIV patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) People with HIV are at an increased risk for for many heart related issues, such as cardiovascular disease and a fatal heart attack. New research indicates that a heart ultrasound can enable HIV positive individuals to identify their risk sooner.

A study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, an American Heart Association journal, suggests that stress echocardiography can aid those with HIV in determining their potential risk of heart disease.

Generally referred to as a "stress echo," the heart ultrasound can be used to check for suspected blockages in blood vessels to the heart.

"Get a yearly stress echo if you are HIV positive."

Farooq A. Chaudhry, MD, senior author and associate professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, said a stress echo can help predict the risk in a group already considered high risk.

He said the test can help determine whether patients have a high or low future risk of heart attack.

Dr. Chaudhry and his team performed stress echos and analyzed data on 311 HIV patients with suspected or known heart disease. The average age of the patients was 52, and most were male. About 26 percent had an abnormal stress echo. During the average 2.9-year follow-up, 17 had a nonfatal heart attack and 14 died from heart disease.

Patients with a normal stress echo had a good prognosis with the average risk for heart attack less than 1 percent per year, the same percentage as healthy individuals without HIV.

But the risk of heart attack or death was substantially higher for those with abnormal stress echos. That group had an average risk of about 12 percent each year, which was 10 times higher than the normal population and three times higher than those who have an abnormal echo but do not have HIV.

The survival rate for HIV patients with normal stress echo results was 100 percent at one year and 98 percent at four years, while the survival rate for HIV patients with abnormal echos was 92 percent at one year and 62 percent at four years.

Researchers said the results suggest that HIV patients with abnormal stress echos should be monitored and treated more aggressively.

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Review Date: 
July 11, 2011
Last Updated:
July 14, 2011