Introduction and Objective: Haemorrheological parameters and endothelial function are known to be altered in vascular diseases, including stroke. Treatment with HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors ('statins') improves cerebrovascular (and cardiovascular) morbidity and mortality in patients with atherosclerosis; the beneficial effects may involve lipid-independent mechanisms. The aim of this study was to assess the short-term effect of low-dose atorvastatin on haemorrheological parameters, platelet aggregation and endothelial dysfunction in patients with chronic cerebrovascular disease and hyperlipidaemia. Patients and Methods: Twenty-seven patients (mean age 61 ± 8 years) with chronic cerebrovascular disease and hyperlipidaemia were included in the study. Serum lipid levels, haemorrheological parameters (haematocrit, plasma fibrinogen levels, plasma and whole blood viscosity [WBV] and red blood cell [RBC] aggregation and deformability) and platelet aggregation were assessed at baseline and after 1 and 3 months of treatment with atorvastatin (Sortis®) 10 mg/day. von Willebrand factor (vWF) activity (a measure of endothelial function) was measured at baseline and after 1 month of treatment. Adverse events were recorded at each visit. Physical examinations, haematological assessments and serum and urine chemistry assays were performed during the study. Results: Plasma total cholesterol levels were reduced by a mean of 27% compared with baseline after both 1 and 3 months of treatment (p < 0.001). Low density lipoprotein-cholesterol levels were reduced by a mean of 40% and 38% (p < 0.001), respectively, after 1 and 3 months of treatment, compared with baseline values. Triglyceride levels decreased by 20% at 1 month and by 10% after 3 months (p < 0.001). Atorvastatin significantly improved WBV after 3 months of treatment and RBC deformability after 1 month and 3 months of treatment (p < 0.05). Collagen-induced platelet aggregation was significantly decreased at 1 (p < 0.05) and 3 months (p < 0.001) compared with baseline values, despite unaltered antiplatelet therapy. vWF activity was also improved significantly (p < 0.05) after 1 month of treatment. Conclusions: Our findings show that the beneficial effects of atorvastatin are complex. Besides lipid lowering, atorvastatin can improve haemorrheological parameters, platelet aggregation and endothelial dysfunction after short-term and low-dose therapy. Whether such early laboratory changes translate into clinical utility for secondary stroke prevention awaits the results of endpoint trials.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by the Hungarian Research Fund (F030770). The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this manuscript.