Background: High sensitivity C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, has been proposed to stratify coronary artery disease risk and is lowered by HMG-CoA reductase (statin) therapy. However, the reproducibility of persistently elevated hs-CRP levels and association with other markers of inflammation in patients with stable CAD on aggressive statin therapy is unknown.
Objectives: To determine the reproducibility of hs-CRP levels measured within 2 weeks in patients with documented CAD with stable symptoms and to identify associations with other markers of inflammation.
Methods: Levels of hs-CRP were measured twice within 14 days (7 ± 4) in 23 patients (22 males and 1 female, average age 66 ± 10 years) with stable CAD and hs-CRP ≥ 2.0 mg/L but ≤ 10 mg/L at visit 1. All patients had received statins for cholesterol management (low density lipoprotein-cholesterol 84 ± 25 mg/dl) with no dose change for > 3 months. None had a history or evidence of malignancy, chronic infection or inflammation, or recent trauma. There was no change in medications between visits 1 and 2, and no patient reported a change in symptoms or general health during this interval. White blood cell count and pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines were measured at both visits.
Results: hs-CRP levels tended to be lower at visit 2 (median 2.4 mg/L, range 0.8–11 mg/L) than at visit 1 (median 3.3 mg/L, range 2.0–9.7 mg/L; P = 0.1793). However, between the two visits hs-CRP levels decreased by more than 1.0 mg/L in 10 patients and increased by more than 1.0 mg/L in 4 patients. Changes in hs-CRP levels were unrelated to changes in levels of white blood cells (P = 0.4353). Of the cytokines tested, only the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 receptor antagonist and the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-8 were above lower limits of detection, but there were no correlations between changes in these values and changes in hs-CRP (both P > 0.5).
Conclusions: In stable CAD patients on aggressive statin therapy, hs-CRP levels may fluctuate over brief periods in the absence of changes in health, cardiac symptom status and medications, and without corroboration with other measures of inflammation. Accordingly, elevated hs-CRP levels should be interpreted with caution in this setting.