Research Activities March 2013, No. 391
Hepatitis C infection does not increase the risk for heart attack
Chronic infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects approximately 170 million people worldwide and 1.3 percent of adults in the United States. This chronic infection induces significant inflammation in the body, affecting the liver and potentially other organs, including the heart. But HCV does not increase the risk of having a heart attack, concludes a new study. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics (CERT) identified 4,809 patients with HCV infection living in the United Kingdom. They were matched to 71,668 patients without HCV infection. All were 18 years of age or older with at least 6 months of followup and no history of heart attack. The researchers calculated the incidence rates of heart attack, while controlling for established cardiovascular risk factors. Median followups were 2.1 years for HCV-infected patients and 3.22 years for those uninfected.
During followup, 264 patients with HCV infection and 248 without infection experienced a heart attack. No significant difference was found between HCV-infected and uninfected individuals (1.02 vs. 0.92 events per 1,000 person-years). After the researchers controlled for known cardiovascular risk factors, HCV infection still did not increase the risk of having a heart attack. Taking aspirin or antiretroviral medications for HCV did not have any significant impact on changing the risk of having a heart attack. The researchers postulate that the type of inflammation seen with HCV infection may be different from other chronic inflammatory diseases that increase the risk of having heart attacks. Also, patients with HCV infection have reduced lipid levels, which may mitigate any heart disease effects produced by this inflammation. This study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10399). For more information on the CERTs program, visit www.certs.hhs.gov.
See "Risk of myocardial infarction associated with chronic hepatitis C virus infection: A population-based cohort study," by Kimberly A. Forde, M.D., M.H.S., Kevin Haynes, Pharm.D., M.S.C.E., Andrea B. Troxel, Sc.D., and others in the Journal of Viral Hepatitis 19, pp. 271-277, 2012.