Clin Mol Hepatol > Volume 28(2); 2022 > Article
Huang, Chen, and Wei: Letter: cervicocerebral atherosclerosis and its hepatic and coronary risk factors in patients with liver cirrhosis
Dear Editor,
We have read with great interest the expert opinion by An et al. [1] regarding cervicocerebral atherosclerosis in patients with liver cirrhosis and the associated hepatic and coronary risk factors. The authors’ valuable contributions to understanding the atherosclerotic burden of cervicocephalic vessels in cirrhotic patients and demonstrating the importance of subclinical cerebral atherosclerosis survey with coronary artery calcium score are much appreciated. However, we wish to reinforce two dimensions of this paper.
Firstly, this paper provided physical conditions of the patients, such as hepatic and blood pressure parameters. However, the socioeconomic status and education level of patients were not disclosed in the paper, which could be a potential major selective bias between the two cohorts. In South Korea, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) is not provided in general health examination. Recent study showed that men and women with a higher income and education level appeared more likely to undergo opportunistic health check-ups (men: highest vs. lowest income: odds ratio [OR], 2.380; 95% confidence interval [CI],1.218–4.653; ≥12 vs. <6 years education: OR, 2.121; 95% CI, 1.142–3.936; women: highest vs. lowest income: OR, 4.042; 95% CI, 2.239–7.297; ≥12 vs. <6 years education: OR, 2.475; 95% CI, 1.283–4.775) [2]. On the other hand, although no difference was found according to income level in the population, education level was significantly associated with the presence of atherosclerosis. It was reported that participants with lower education level presented a higher risk of generalized atherosclerosis than those with higher education (OR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.15–1.85; P=0.002) [3]. Thus, it is suggested that the authors should provide more detailed and valid data to minimize the potential selective bias.
Secondly, this study employed MRA to identify intracranial and extracranial atherosclerosis. However, the intraplaque hemorrhage and lipid core were not identified, which could significantly influence the severity of carotid atherosclerosis. It has been accepted that intraplaque hemorrhage is one of the features of vulnerable plaques [4]. Moreover, the presence of a lipid core was independently associated with incident cardiovascular disease events when adjusted for traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors and maximum coronary artery wall thickness (hazard ratio, 2.48; 95% CI, 1.36–4.51; P =0.003) [5]. The critical tissues of plaque could be identified including fibrous tissue, calcifications, lipid-rich necrotic core and intraplaque hemorrhage [6]. Hence, it is suggested that the authors should revise the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)/MRA series to identify the intraplaque hemorrhage and lipid core to indicate the severity of carotid atherosclerosis.
In conclusion, we sincerely appreciate this valuable work for providing the very first evidence that liver cirrhosis has protective effect against intracranial atherosclerosis. However, to enhance the credibility of the above conclusion, we are convinced that the potential residual confounders should be revealed, and that the authors could provide more detailed MRI/MRA information in this study to make the outcomes more persuasive.

FOOTNOTES

Authors’ contributions
Yi-Chun Huang: Conceived and wrote the manuscript. Chih-Wei Chen: English editing and proofreading. James Chun-Chung Wei: Conceived and supervised whole process.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors have no conflicts to disclose.

Abbreviations

CI
confidence interval
MRA
magnetic resonance angiography
MRI
magnetic resonance imaging
OR
odds ratio

REFERENCES

1. An J, Kim HD, Kim SO, Kim HI, Song GW, Lee HC, et al. Cervicocerebral atherosclerosis and its hepatic and coronary risk factors in patients with liver cirrhosis. Clin Mol Hepatol 2022;28:67-76.
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2. Shin HY, Kang HT, Lee JW, Lim HJ. The association between socioeconomic status and adherence to health check-up in Korean adults, based on the 2010-2012 Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Korean J Fam Med 2018;39:114-121.
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3. Redondo-Bravo L, Fernández-Alvira JM, Górriz J, Mendiguren JM, Sanz J, Fernández-Friera L, et al. Does socioeconomic status influence the risk of subclinical atherosclerosis?: a mediation model. J Am Coll Cardiol 2019;74:526-535.
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4. Saba L, Saam T, Jäger HR, Yuan C, Hatsukami TS, Saloner D, et al. Imaging biomarkers of vulnerable carotid plaques for stroke risk prediction and their potential clinical implications. Lancet Neurol 2019;18:559-572.
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5. Brunner G, Virani SS, Sun W, Liu L, Dodge RC, Nambi V, et al. Associations between carotid artery plaque burden, plaque characteristics, and cardiovascular events: the ARIC carotid magnetic resonance imaging study. JAMA Cardiol 2021;6:79-86.
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6. Sirol M. Atherosclerosis plaque imaging and characterization using magnetic resonance imaging. US Cardiology 2005;2:129-132.
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