Author + information
- Received February 12, 1997
- Revision received July 31, 1997
- Accepted August 14, 1997
- Published online November 15, 1997.
- Mete Alpaslan, MDA,
- Hiroaki Shimokawa, MDA,* (, )
- Mari Kuroiwa-Matsumoto, MDA,
- Yasuhiko Harasawa, MDA and
- Akira Takeshita, MD, FACCA
- ↵*Dr. Hiroaki Shimokawa, The Research Institute of Angiocardiology and Cardiovascular Clinic, Kyushu University School of Medicine, 3-1-1 Maidashi, Higashi-ku, Fukuoka 812-82, Japan.
Objectives. This study was designed to examine whether short-term estrogen administration ameliorates dobutamine-induced myocardial ischemia in postmenopausal women with coronary artery disease (CAD).
Background. Estrogen replacement therapy in postmenopausal women is associated with a marked reduction in the risk of CAD. Estrogen has been reported to have both short- and long-term effects on the cardiovascular system. However, it remains to be examined whether short-term estrogen administration ameliorates myocardial ischemia caused by increased myocardial oxygen demand in postmenopausal women with CAD.
Methods. Eight postmenopausal women with proved CAD underwent dobutamine stress echocardiography (DSE). DSE was performed three times in a placebo-controlled, double-blind manner: 1) 30 min after intravenous administration of saline solution (placebo) and after 2) a low dose (1.25 mg) and 3) a high dose (10 mg) of conjugated estrogen. The effects of estrogen were compared at the maximal comparable stage of DSE, which was the maximal DSE level that the same patient achieved in all three examinations.
Results. Estrogen dose-dependently ameliorated the dobutamine-induced worsening of symptoms (prolonging time to onset of symptoms by 52% [low dose] and 72% [high dose]), electrocardiographic findings (decreasing the magnitude of summed ST segment changes by 36% [low dose] and 76% [high dose]) and left ventricular wall motion (reducing the wall motion score index by 50% [low dose] and 77% [high dose], all p < 0.01 by analysis of variance). There was no significant difference in blood pressure, heart rate or rate-pressure product among the three examinations at the maximal comparable stage of DSE.
Conclusions. Estrogen has short-term anti-ischemic effects on the myocardial ischemia induced by increased myocardial oxygen demand in postmenopausal women with CAD.
Epidemiologic studies have shown that estrogen replacement therapy achieves an ∼50% reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease among postmenopausal women . Estrogen replacement therapy has more beneficial effects in reducing the incidence of cardiovascular events in postmenopausal women with coronary artery disease (CAD) than in those without CAD. Sullivan et al. reported that estrogen replacement therapy in postmenopausal women with CAD reduced the mortality rate at 10 years from 35% to 14%.
Beneficial effects of estrogen are not totally attributable to their favorable effects on plasma lipid levels . Another possible mechanism for the beneficial effects of estrogen is its vascular effects, including endothelium-dependent relaxation [4–6], endothelium-independent and calcium antagonistic vasodilating effect [7–9]and antioxidant effect . It has recently been reported that sublingual administration of 17-beta-estradiol has short-term beneficial effects on myocardial ischemia during treadmill exercise testing in postmenopausal women with CAD. However, exercise tolerance during treadmill testing may be determined both by cardiac factors (e.g., mechanical function of the heart) and by noncardiac factors (e.g., pulmonary function and peripheral arterial disease). Thus, this beneficial effect of estrogen may in part be due to the noncardiac effects of the hormone. To our knowledge, the short-term effects of estrogen administration on left ventricular (LV) wall motion during myocardial ischemia have not been directly investigated.
This study was thus designed to examine whether short-term estrogen administration ameliorates the myocardial ischemia during dobutamine stress echocardiography (DSE) in postmenopausal women with CAD.
Eight postmenopausal women with CAD proved by coronary arteriography were included in this study. The mean age was 69 years (range 53 to 79). No patient was receiving estrogen replacement therapy. All patients gave a written informed consent before the examination. No other patients were examined in the present study, and thus no exclusion took place before the examination. Study protocol was approved by the Human Research Committee at the Research Institute of Angiocardiology, Kyushu University School of Medicine. The clinical characteristics of the patients are shown in Table 1.
DSE was performed three times in 2 weeks, in a placebo-controlled, double-blind manner: 1) 30 min after intravenous bolus administration of saline solution (5 ml) and after 2) a low dose (1.25 mg) and 3) a high dose (10 mg) of estrogen diluted in 5 ml of saline solution. The three examinations were performed at the same time of day in the same patient. Among the medications only beta-adrenergic receptor blocking agents were discontinued 1 day before the examination. No patient was receiving verapamil or diltiazem, which could suppress the heart rate response to dobutamine. The presence of unstable angina, profound anemia, electrolyte imbalance or uncontrolled hypertension (systolic blood pressure >190 or diastolic blood pressure >100 mm Hg, or both) was regarded as a contraindication for DSE.
The patients were in the left lateral decubitus position throughout the study. They were asked to report the onset of chest pain or discomfort, or both, during the examination. Dobutamine was administered intravenously by an infusion pump. The starting dose of dobutamine was 5 μg/kg per min and the dose of dobutamine was increased in stepwise manner to 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 μg/kg per min every 4 min until one of the following general end points was reached: target heart rate (85% of age-predicted maximal heart rate), peak dose, ischemic electrocardiographic (ECG) changes (>1 mm ST segment depression or elevation in more than two leads), severe hypertension (systolic blood pressure >220 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure >110 mm Hg, or both), hypotension (>20 mm Hg decrease in systolic blood pressure compared with the rest blood pressure), chest pain or patient refusal to continue. When the patient experienced only mild chest discomfort or dyspnea without any of the preceding end points, the dobutamine infusion was continued until an end point was reached. However, a patient’s report of such chest discomfort or dyspnea was regarded as the onset of symptoms.
Two-dimensional echocardiograms were obtained at rest, 3 min after dobutamine infusion at each stage and 10 min after the end of the dobutamine infusion. Atropine was not used in any patient. Echocardiographic images included parasternal long-axis, parasternal short-axis, apical two-chamber and apical four-chamber views; they were stored on S-VHS videotapes (Black Magnetite, Maxell, Tokyo, Japan) for off-line analysis.
Twelve-lead ECGs were recorded at each stage (Auto Cardiner FCP-4301, Fukuda Denshi, Tokyo, Japan) and the patient also was continuously monitored by three-lead ECGs during the examination. Blood pressure was measured at each stage with a cuff manometer in the right or left arm opposite to the dobutamine infusion side. Time to onset of symptoms (chest pain, chest discomfort or dyspnea) was also recorded. ST segment depression was measured 0.08 s after the J point, and ST elevation was measured 0.02 s after the J point. The sum of ST shift was calculated by summing the ST elevations or depressions in 12-lead ECGs .
We have previously confirmed that our DSE examination is reproducible to detect the presence of CAD. Our DSE examination has a sensitivity of 79% and a specificity of 92% (unpublished observations).
1.3 Analysis of DSE
Echocardiograms were independently interpreted in blinded manner by two experienced cardiologists familiar with the analysis of LV wall motion. LV wall motion was analyzed in a 16-segment model as suggested by the American Society of Echocardiography . Wall motion index was scored in the following manner : normal = 1; hypokinesia, severe hypokinesia or failure of hyperkinesia to develop = 2; akinesia = 3; dyskinesia = 4; and aneurysmal = 5. Hyperdynamic wall motion was regarded as the normal response to dobutamine infusion . Wall motion score index was calculated for every stage of DSE. Scoring was not performed if a particular segment was not clear enough for interpretation. The scores were summed and divided by the number of available segments to obtain the wall motion score index.
The tolerance to dobutamine varied even in the same patient among the three examinations. Thus, the changes in the wall motion score index or the ST segment level from rest conditions to the maximal comparable stage of DSE, that is the maximal DSE level that the same patient could achieve in all three examinations, was determined to examine the effect of estrogen.
The changes in wall motion score index were determined by the two cardiologists, and the mean value was used for the analysis. We confirmed that there was an excellent intraobserver (r = 0.95, p < 0.001) and interobserver (r = 0.96, p < 0.001) consistency (by a single-variable linear regression analysis).
1.4 Measurements of Serum Levels of Estrogen and Lipid Peroxides
Venous blood was sampled three times during each DSE examination: before and 30 min after the injection of test medication (just before starting DSE) and 10 min after the end of dobutamine infusion. The serum levels of the three estrogen fractions (estrone, estradiol and estriol) were analyzed by radioimmunoassay . Serum levels of lipid peroxides were also analyzed by the thiuobarbituric acid method .
Conjugated estrogen (Premarin, 20 mg/5 ml physiologic saline solution for intravenous use) was purchased from Asahi Chemicals (Tokyo, Japan) and dobutamine chloride from Shionogi Co. Ltd. (Osaka, Japan).
1.6 Statistical Analysis
Results are expressed as the mean value ± SEM. Throughout the text, n means the number of patients. Data obtained from three examinations (saline solution and a low and a high dose of estrogen) were analyzed by analysis of variance (ANOVA) for repeated measures; if a significant F value was found, the Scheffé test for multiple comparisons was used to identify any differences among the three groups. A p value < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.
2.1 Serum Levels of Estrogen and Lipid Peroxides
After injection of a low dose of estrogen, serum levels of estrone and estradiol significantly increased to premenopausal levels whereas those of estriol did not change (Fig. 1). After administration of a high dose of estrogen, serum levels of estrone and estradiol further increased to supraphysiologic levels whereas those of estriol again did not change (Fig. 1). The serum levels of estrone and estradiol remained increased without a significant decrease during the examination period (Fig. 1).
Serum levels of lipid peroxides under control conditions were within normal ranges (2 to 6 nmol/ml) in all three examinations: 3.3 ± 0.2, 3.5 ± 0.2 and 3.5 ± 0.2 nmol/ml in the examinations with saline and low and high dose estrogen, respectively. These lipid peroxide levels did not change significantly after administration of either estrogen or dobutamine (data not shown).
2.2 End Point of DSE
Among the 24 DSE examinations, the dobutamine infusion was stopped because of chest pain in 14, achievement of the peak dose of dobutamine in 6, and ischemic ST segment changes in 4. Thus, the maximal comparable stage of DSE (as expressed by the dobutamine dose, μg/kg per min) was 10 (n = 1), 20 (n = 4), 40 (n = 2) and 50 (n = 1). The patients reported that the dobutamine-induced chest pain was similar to that experienced in their daily life.
2.3 Changes in Hemodynamic Variables
No significant difference was noted in heart rate, blood pressure or rate-pressure product among the three examinations (Table 2). Administration of estrogen, both low and high dose, did not significantly change heart rate, blood pressure or rate-pressure product before and 30 min after estrogen administration. However, at the maximal comparable stage of DSE, heart rate and rate-pressure product, but not blood pressure, significantly increased over values in control conditions (Table 2).
2.4 Effect of Estrogen on Symptoms
Estrogen significantly and dose-dependently prolonged the time to the onset of symptoms (p < 0.01 by ANOVA) (Fig. 2). The mean value of the percent prolongation of the time to the onset of symptoms was 52% at a low dose and 72% at a high dose of the hormone (Fig. 2).
2.5 Effects of Estrogen on ECG Changes
Estrogen significantly and dose-dependently reduced the magnitude of the summed ST segment changes (p < 0.01 by ANOVA) (Fig. 3). The mean value of the percent reduction of the ST segment changes was 36% at a low dose and 76% at a high dose of the hormone (Fig. 3).
2.6 Effect of Estrogen on Wall Motion Abnormalities
Estrogen significantly and dose-dependently ameliorated the worsening of the wall motion score index at the maximal comparable stage of DSE (p < 0.01 by ANOVA) (Fig. 4). The mean value of the percent reduction of the wall motion score index was 50% at a low dose and 77% at a high dose of the hormone (Fig. 4).
2.7 Influence of Baseline Wall Motion Abnormalities
The preceding beneficial effects of estrogen on dobutamine-induced symptoms, ECG changes and wall motion abnormalities were noted in our postmenopausal patients with CAD, regardless of the presence or absence of baseline wall motion abnormalities (data not shown).
The novel finding of the present study is that short-term administration of conjugated estrogen significantly ameliorated the dobutamine-induced myocardial ischemia in postmenopausal women with CAD.
Dobutamine is a synthetic catecholamine and has effects on beta1-, beta2- and alpha1-adrenergic receptors [17, 18]. Dobutamine increases myocardial oxygen demand by increasing heart rate and myocardial contractility [17, 18]mainly due to beta1-adrenergic receptor stimulation. The beta2- and alpha1-adrenergic agonist activities of dobutamine are relatively milder than its beta1-adrenergic activity. Because beta2- and alpha1-adrenergic effects of dobutamine are balanced in peripheral vasculature, dobutamine infusion, especially at low doses, has minimal effects on blood pressure . In the presence of CAD, the increased myocardial oxygen demand by dobutamine is associated with an inadequate increase in coronary blood flow, resulting in myocardial ischemia and abnormal LV wall motion that can be detected by cross-sectional echocardiography .
DSE has several advantages over exercise echocardiography . First, myocardial ischemia can be easily induced by dobutamine infusion in almost all patients, whereas exercise echocardiography cannot always be performed in all patients. Second, because DSE allows echocardiographic imaging at every stage of dobutamine infusion, we were able to analyze LV wall motion at the maximal comparable stage of DSE in our study, whereas exercise echocardiography can be performed only after exercise.
In the present study, heart rate responses were slightly lower than those in previous reports [17, 18]. We consider that this difference occurred in part because only two of our patients could achieve a dobutamine infusion rate of 50 μg/kg per min in four DSE examinations, and in part because the relatively older age of our patients (mean 69 years) may have blunted the heart rate response to the dobutamine stimulation. However, because rate-pressure products were comparable among the three examinations in our study, we were able to examine the effects of estrogen at the maximal comparable level of myocardial oxygen demand.
3.2 Anti-ischemic Effect of Estrogen
In the present study, we observed the short-term anti-ischemic effects of estrogen, which may be attributed to the following vascular effects of this hormone:
1. Estrogen may ameliorate the extent of myocardial ischemia by enhancing the endothelium-dependent vasodilation of the coronary artery. Previous studies have demonstrated that an increase in sympathetic tone, such as that caused by mental stress , exercise or cold pressor test , causes dilation of normal coronary arteries and paradoxic constriction of atherosclerotic coronary arteries with dysfunctional endothelium. Thus, enhanced endothelium-dependent relaxation may play a protective role to delay or prevent the occurrence of myocardial ischemia in patients with CAD. Physiologic levels of 17-beta-estradiol were shown to immediately and selectively potentiate endothelium-dependent dilation in both large coronary arteries and coronary microvessels in postmenopausal women. We also recently demonstrated that estrogen immediately improves both nitric oxide–mediated and non-nitric oxide (possibly endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor)–mediated endothelium-dependent forearm vasodilation in postmenopausal women. In the present study, it is possible that potentiation of endothelium-dependent vasodilation by estrogen increased the myocardial blood flow and ameliorated the dobutamine-induced worsening of symptoms, ECG findings and LV wall motion.
2. The endothelium-independent and calcium antagonistic vasodilating effects of estrogen may also explain in part its anti-ischemic effect. As functional estrogen receptor has been demonstrated on vascular smooth muscle cells in the human saphenous vein and mammary artery , it is highly possible that this also is the case in the human coronary artery.
3. An antioxidant effect of estrogen might be involved in the anti-ischemic effect of the hormone. However, this possibility may be less likely, at least in the present study, because the levels of lipid peroxides, a marker of systemic production of oxygen-derived free radicals , did not decrease with a low or a high dose of estrogen.
In the present study, we used conjugated estrogen because it is the only estrogen agent that can be used for intravenous administration in our country. As serum levels of both estrone and estradiol were increased after administration of conjugated estrogen in our study, both estrogen fractions may contribute to the anti-ischemic effect of estrogen. Whereas comparative vascular effects of estrone and estradiol remain to be examined, estradiol is three times as potent as estrone in its anti-oxidant effect .
A comparison of the serum levels of estrone and estradiol (Fig. 1) with the anti-ischemic effects of estrogen (Figs. 2–4) indicates that the logarithmic values of the estrogen levels appear to correlate with the hormone’s anti-ischemic effects. It also should be noted that even a low dose of estrogen (1.25 mg intravenously) that achieved physiologic serum levels of the hormone exerted anti-ischemic effects in postmenopausal women with CAD.
3.3 Limitations of the Study
Several limitations of our study could be cited. 1) We included only eight patients. However, the anti-ischemic effects of estrogen were evident even with this small number. 2) We investigated only the immediate effects of estrogen. A recent study found that long-term estrogen replacement therapy that achieved physiologic levels of estrogen did not improve exercise tolerance by treadmill test in healthy postmenopausal women. It remains to be examined whether long-term estrogen replacement therapy increases exercise tolerance in postmenopausal women with CAD. 3) We did not store the images in a digitized format or review in a quad screen format but recorded them on S-VHS tapes. Side by side cine loop format is generally accepted to be a superior way for analyzing DSE. However, a recent study suggested that, although digitized analysis would be more appropriate, traditional videotape analysis may also be used in DSE. 4) We included three patients with baseline wall motion abnormalities. However, the beneficial effects of estrogen were noted in our postmenopausal patients with CAD, regardless of the presence or absence of baseline wall motion abnormalities.
In summary, we were able to demonstrate that short-term estrogen administration ameliorates dobutamine-induced myocardial ischemia. Our finding may have important clinical implications for understanding both the pathogenesis and the management of CAD in postmenopausal women.
We thank Chie Fukagawa and Drs. Shin-ichi Ando, Hiroaki Yamamoto and Jun-ichi Oyama for their kind cooperation in this study.
☆ This work was supported in part by grants-in-aid from the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture, Tokyo, Japan.
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- analysis of variance
- coronary artery disease
- electrocardiogram, electrocardiographic
- dobutamine stress echocardiography (echocardiographic)
- left ventricular
- Received February 12, 1997.
- Revision received July 31, 1997.
- Accepted August 14, 1997.
- The American College of Cardiology
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