Traditional Cardiovascular Risk Factors Are Stronger Related to Carotid Intima‐Media Thickness Than to Presence of Carotid Plaques in People Living With HIV


Marc J. T. Blaauw, Marvin A. H. Berrevoets, Wilhelm A. J. W. Vos, Albert L. Groenendijk, Louise E. van Eekeren, Nadira Vadaq, Gert Weijers, Andre J. A. M. van der Ven, Joost H. W. Rutten and Niels P. Riksen


Background Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in people living with HIV, who are at higher risk than the general population. We assessed, in a large cohort of people living with HIV, which cardiovascular, HIV‐specific, and lipoproteomic markers were associated with carotid intima‐media thickness (cIMT) and carotid plaque presence. We also studied guideline adherence on lipid‐lowering medication in individuals with high and very high risk for cardiovascular disease.

Methods and Results In 1814 individuals with a median (interquartile range) age of 53 (44–60) years, we found a carotid plaque in 909 (50.1%) and a median (interquartile range) intima‐media thickness of 0.66 (0.57–0.76) mm. Ultrasonography was used for the assessment of cIMT and plaque presence. Univariable and multivariable regression models were used for associations with cIMT and presence of plaques. Age, Black race, body mass index, type 2 diabetes, and smoking (pack years) were all positively associated with higher cIMT. Levels of high‐density lipoprotein cholesterol, specifically medium and large high‐density lipoprotein subclasses, were negatively associated with higher cIMT. Only age and prior myocardial infarction were positively related to the presence of a carotid plaque. Lipid‐lowering treatment was prescribed in one‐third of people living with HIV, who are at high and very high risk for cardiovascular disease.

Conclusions Traditional cardiovascular risk factors were significantly associated with higher cIMT but not with carotid plaques, except for age. HIV‐specific factors were not associated with both ultrasound measurements. Future studies are needed to elucidate which factors contribute to plaque formation. Improvement of guideline adherence on prescription of lipid‐lowering treatment in high‐ and very high‐risk patients for cardiovascular disease is recommended.

Registration URL:; Unique identifier: NCT03994835.

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