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Circulation on the Run

Jan 7, 2019

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Welcome to Circulation On The Run, your weekly podcast summary and backstage pass to the journal and it's editors. I'm Dr Caroline Lam, associate editor from the National Heart Center and Duke National University of Singapore.

Greg Hundley:                   And I'm Greg Hundley, Professor at the Pauley Heart Center of Virginia Commonwealth University Health Sciences in Richmond, Virginia.

Dr Carolyn Lam:                In case you guys missed us last week, this is how our new podcast is gonna work. Greg and I are going to invite you for coffee with us, almost with a journal in hand, and we're gonna chat about the week's issue, highlighting two original papers each, that we thought were awesome. And don't you worry, the feature discussion is still there, authors will join us for a feature discussion right after our coffee.

                                                And for this week, the feature paper speaks about the MOMENTUM 3 trial, and talks about the important analysis of stroke outcomes in this trial. But before that, I think Greg, you've got a couple of papers don't you?

Greg Hundley:                   Absolutely Carolyn. So the whole issue, I think we're gonna pick out several stroke papers, really a stroke theme. The first paper is Ankit Maheshwari. He looked at the utility of P-wave morphology on the 12-lead electrocardiogram, to help predict ischemic stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation.

                                                Now, how did he do this? Basically, they looked at a large cohort of individuals from the ARIC study, and these were patients that developed atrial fibrillation. And electrocardiograms had been recorded prior to their Afib episode.

                                                So, what were they looking for in P-wave morphology? Well, they were looking for changes in Lead three. They were looking for changes in V1. They were also looking for extension of that P-wave. So a prolonged duration. And what they observed, is that that abnormal P-wave, could forecast abnormal atrial remodeling, that might be an indicator of future stroke.

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Huh, interesting. But is it really reproducible? Did they validate it somehow?

Greg Hundley:                   Yeah, so that's great Carolyn. You know, in papers like this, you like to take a finding in one large cohort, but then you've got to reproduce it. So they went to the MESA Study. Remember now, Mesa are individuals without cardiovascular disease. ARIC are patients with cardiovascular disease. And the finding was reproducible in MESA. Also, what the authors did, is they looked at the relevance of this EKG finding to our existing CHADS-VASc2 scoring system.

                                                And what was really smart by these investigators, is that if you added the information from the abnormal P-wave morphology to the CHADS-VASc2 score, you could forecast stroke. Now you say, well CHADS-VASc2 is already pretty reliable, but what about those patients that have a CHADS-VASc score of one right? We're always kind of wondering, do we anticoagulate them? Do we give them aspirin, et cetera. Well if the P-wave morphology was abnormal and they were at higher risk for stroke, that could sway you as a clinician, to go ahead and prescribe anticoagulation for that group of patients.

                                                And something very simple, just from the 12-lead EKG before the patients went into atrial fibrillation. You've got a paper that also is sort of focusing on stroke. You want to tell us about that?

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Yeah, one big data to another big data series. This time, it's Get With The Guidelines Stroke series, and this paper is from Dr Menon from University of Calgary in Canada. Where they described the door to treatment times for endovascular therapy in acute stroke. What is that? Well that's a time interval from when the patient arrives in the emergency department or the door, to the first pass of the treatment initiation and endovascular therapy. And basically they found that the median door to first pass time was 130 minutes. Only 3% of patients achieved a door to first pass time of less than 60 minutes.

                                                In multivariable analyses, older age arrival during nonregular hours and a history of diabetes, were all associated with the longer door to first pass time. And finally, among hospitals with an annual endovascular therapy case volume of 40 or less, every five unit increase in that volume was associated with a 3% reduction in this door to first pass time.

Greg Hundley:                   It sounds like that could be really useful information for stroke centers, you know, that are managing these patients acutely. How do you think these results are going to impact that Carolyn?

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Great question. So first thing is, I think it provides some benchmark times for this in hospital workflow, and it obviously shows areas of improvement. For example, improving workflow during nonregular hours, or increasing the experience of a center, and basically emphasizes the point that efforts on streamlining workflow and saving time, need to continue so that the full potential of endovascular therapy is realized.

Greg Hundley:                   Oh wow, that's outstanding. I'm gonna transition sort of to a basic science paper, also trying to help manage patients with stroke. This one is looking at the safety of all of the dehydrogenased right stem cells. Well, what the world is that. In animals, what has been shown previously, is this particular cells type, that's harvested from your bone marrow, can be infused into the carotid artery, and those animals experience smaller neurologic deficits after stroke. And so with that encouraging result in animals, these investigators sought to test the efficacy of this type of therapy, well not really the efficacy, but the safety of this type of approach in those patients that have sustained actually quite a large stroke.

                                                You had to have a relatively large neurologic deficit to qualify for this study. And just quickly, the way this works is these cells enter up through the bloodstream and they modulate inflammation. By modulating inflammation, that facilitates healing in the stroke patient.

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Yeah, but wow. I mean bone marrow, biopsy and isolating the cells and so on. How is the study done?

Greg Hundley:                   So, the key here is you've had your stroke, you're still in the hospital with a large neurologic deficit. And so day 11 to 17, you undergo a bone marrow biopsy. Then the cells are purified, and they're reinfused into your carotid artery by the way.

                                                And so, what was the study trying to do? Well, it was actually looking at the safety off all this. And what would the concern be? You're infusing these cells into the carotid artery. They go into the cerebral microcirculation, and those that are working in this field, are concerned is that going to promote more emboli? Is that going to promote thrombus? Extend the size of the infarct in the brain, et cetera?

                                                So, the investigators performed MRI's and neurologic exams. And what they found is the neurologic findings in the patients really didn't change, so there was no benefit. But the study wasn't set up to look for a benefit. And there were four patients that had a little bit of an enlargement of the stroke observed on MRI. So, a lot more to come in this basic science realm, but it's interesting to see investigators thinking about this in a whole different way, where we're harvesting one cell type from your body, and then infusing it up into the brain to sort of help rescue the situation.

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Well, another paper dealing with stroke. This time, a Mendelian randomization study to explore whether genetically determined circulating levels of cytokines and growth factors, may be associated with stroke. And this was done in the mega stroke GWA data set and validated in the UK biobank, and it’s by Dr Dichgans and colleagues from the university hospital, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. They basically found, that a genetic predisposition to higher circulating levels of monocyte chemoattractant protein one, was associated with a higher risk of stroke. The associations also found for the etiology of the stroke subtypes, and especially for large artery stroke and cardioembolic stroke. In fact the genetically determined levels of this monocyte chemoattractant protein one, was also associated with higher risk of the related phenotypes of coronary artery disease and myocardial infarction.

Greg Hundley:                   So, how do you bring this to practice in the clinic Carolyn?

Dr Carolyn Lam:                So, this is still some steps away, but I do think that it very nicely supports the idea that inflammation as part of the pathogenesis of stroke, and of course additional work is needed to determine whether targeting the specific monocyte chemoattractant protein one, or it's downstream effectors, may be a meaningful strategy to lower stroke risk. So, terribly interesting.

Greg Hundley:                   Yeah, you know it sounds like hitting inflammation or targeting that, is a real theme here from the basic science group. Well this is great Carolyn.

                                                And now, I guess we'll transition over to our feature article.

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Absolutely. So, we're here to discuss the long-term results of the MOMENTUM 3 Trial, and that was a randomized controlled trial of the HeartMate 3 versus the Heartmate II left ventricular assist device. And this time, with a focus on stroke. The outcomes that's just so important to our patients. Greg and I are incredibly pleased to have with us, the authors, Dr Mandeep Mehra from Brigham and Women's Hospital, as well as our senior associate editor, Dr Biykem Bozkurt, to discuss this paper.

                                                Mandeep, perhaps just set the scene by telling us what this secondary analysis found?

Dr Mandeep Mehra:       This analysis is really focused on the issue of stroke, as you pointed out. I'd like to just lace into context what this is important. Ever since the advent of left ventricular assist device therapy from the 80s and early 90s, to now, one of the major Achilles' heels, whether we have used pulsatile flow devices or non-pulsatile flow devices, has been the very constant occurrence of a high incidence of stroke, beyond the stroke rates were predominantly as compared to ischemic strokes. Then with the newer devices, we actually saw a reversal, where we began to see more ischemic strokes as opposed to hemorrhagic strokes, almost an equal parts at this time point.

                                                And this has been one of the critical reasons why we have not been able to expand the therapy beyond the very, very sick patient.

Greg Hundley:                   Very nice. And another particular in the results here is, you didn't really see a difference in stroke rates, either hemorrhagic or ischemic strokes early, but you did start to see a difference after 180 days. Why do you think that's the case?

Dr Mandeep Mehra:       That's a great point Greg. We really saw no difference in the first 30 days. When we analyzed this data, we divided it into a perioperative, a first 30-day time point. Then, we looked at the short-term time point up to 180 days or six months, and then beyond that to the two year end point. What became very clear is that most of the gains that we saw in the stroke rate, began to appear after the first 30 days, did not quite reach statistical significance at six months, but really the differences became heavily pronounced after six months, all the way out to two years.

                                                So, first point that I would make Greg, is that we did see differences beyond 30 days, it's just that they didn't reach conventional statistical significance. The second thing is, the more important point that you make, asking why that was the case. We actually think that the reason behind that, is that the first three months or so after that implant, really is a period of chaos in these patients, where the hemocompatibility, which is essentially the interface between the device as well as the patient, is attempting to be established. And it's very similar in a way as we see in heart transplantation Greg, where the real challenge in heart transplantation is between rejection and infection.

                                                And in the case of left ventricular assist device is the challenges between bleeding and thrombosis. It turns out that three months, whether it be transplantation or whether it be left ventricular assist devices, seems to be this period of chaos and adjustment, during which the patient and the device are starting to get to know each other.

                                                And this is why we think that most of the gains occurred after this period of chaos was overcome.

Greg Hundley:                   No, it's really interesting that after accounting or adjusting for all the anticoagulant drugs, antiplatelet drugs, even the other medical therapies that were applied, you found these results. I mean, maybe also bring in Biykem here to answer the question, what is this machine doing that's providing such a benefit?

Dr Biykem Bozkurt:         The two-year results being quite impressive for the HeartMate 3 are truly encouraging. Because I think we truly see a concordance benefit beyond 180 days, especially the nondisabling strokes, giving the hope to the providers that we can further perhaps enhance the field by focusing on optimization of anticoagulation strategies, prevention of atrial fibrillation, and maybe even consider our algorithms or pathways for stroke. Because, in this protocol, even though the stroke management was not standardized, and I'm sure that the data will not yield that information as to which centers were able to approach the stroke management in a perhaps evidence based approach, the sobering facts are regardless of the device, at two years, approximately half of the patients died. Even the non-disabling stroke patients had increased mortality compared to no-stroke patients.

                                                And if you examine evidence-based approaches, only one-third of the hemorrhagic stroke patients had reversal of anticoagulation, and a very small percentage ... actually, none of the patients had device intervention for the ischemic stroke. That raises the question of yes at two years the HeartMate 3 results are very promising. But, can we further even advance the field by doing evidence based standardized pathway driven stroke treatment approaches.

                                                The other very interesting finding from this trial is, in ENDURANCE trial, which was another trial with centrifugal device, HVAD device, there was an association of the stroke rates with inadequate control of blood pressure and anticoagulation, which was not noted in this trial. Maybe Mandeep can comment on do we truly have the adequate power to be able to infer whether blood pressure control and/or appropriate anticoagulation management strategies will matter?

Dr Mandeep Mehra:       Biykem you've said it really well, and I'd like to just make some additional points with respect to the question. So, first of all Greg you're absolutely correct, that we tried to search for anything that would predict this reduction in stroke with the HeartMate 3, and it turned out that all we were left with is the device itself. So, it really begs the question, what is it about the device or it's interface that may have resulted in this.

                                                And of course, some of what I'm about to tell you will be speculation, but it may actually carry some water. So, for example, the HeartMate 3 is very unique in one other aspect, and that is that, even though it's a small profile device, it's engineering principles are such that it allows for very wide blood flow pathways. And in fact, despite its small profile, the blood flow pathways allow for 20 times more red blood cells to travel through the primary and secondary pathway, than other devices.

                                                What it means is that as blood is going through this device, it is exposed to very low sheer stress. And in return, the benefit that we see very clearly with this device in a very, very important way, is the fact that we see almost no denovo pump thrombosis developing with this device. Certainly, if the device doesn't carry some small quad risks in it, that cause problems with the device, it's probably also not causing the production of smaller non-device malfunction producing thrombi, which may with other devices, actually develop and cause strokes.

                                                So, we think that particular engineering enhancement, may play a very important role in reducing this stroke rate that we have observed.

                                                The second very important point that Biykem brought up, is this notion about the management of ... whether it be with anticoagulants or with blood pressure management. And for a moment let's dwell on the blood pressure issue. One of the striking things with the other centrifugal device, the HVAD device, is that the ENDURANCE Trial showed a significantly higher stroke rate with that device. And in fact, in a subsequent study, the ENDURANCE Supplemental Trial, when blood pressure was tightly, tightly controlled in the device, there appeared to be a small signal in reduction in strokes, although it still did not meet the non-inferiority endpoint, compared to the HeartMate II in the second supplementary trial that was done with that device.

                                                So, what's unique about this? Well, we can very clearly say maybe we just didn't have enough ability to show a difference in this particular trial, we didn't analyze it the right way, because we didn't have a blood pressure intervention or low or higher permissive blood pressures in this trial. But I would say that there's one other issue that I think may have played a very important role in this, and that is the HeartMate 3 is intrinsically developed with a fixed pulse algorithm. And in fact, the HeartMate 3 has a capacity where the magnetically levitated rotor upregulates itself and then downregulates itself every two seconds, and creates an internal pulsatility.

                                                Now, engineers developed that pulsatility to really decrease stasis, so that the pump wouldn't thrombose. But we often see that it provides sufficient peripheral pulsatility, not to the pulse pressures that we would normally like to see, but certainly to some degree, where the vasculature can perceive or transduce some degree of pulsatility. Why that may be important is, that it may actually allow for preservation of baroreceptor function in these patients, which tends to be lost in continuous flow pumps.

                                                And how important that is for blood pressure regulation and its vascular effect, may be something that needs to be looked at into the future. But it's certainly a very, very intriguing issue for us to examine.

Dr Biykem Bozkurt:         Mandeep, one final question or comment. Do want to comment on the stroke rates of HeartMate II compared to former trials. Because that comes as a common query as to why in MOMENTUM 3 the stroke rate in HeartMate II, appear to be higher than the former trials.

Dr Mandeep Mehra:       So very quickly, I'll tell you they're not. So, if you look at the 2009 randomized trials, randomized patients with a HeartMate II versus the HeartMate XVE trial, the two-year stroke rates with the HeartMate II in that trial were 19%, exactly what we observed at two years in this trial.

                                                Other trials have shown exactly that same number. The only trial in which there appeared to be a difference in those numbers, was in the ENDURANCE Trial, where the two-year rate of any stroke was 12%, and was a little lower in the HeartMate II than what we observed. However, I will caution you that if someone dies before having a stroke, then they die without a stroke. And so, stroke can sometimes we underestimated if the population that is enrolled, such as a transplant ineligible population at very high risk, is dying more often than having the chance of a stroke.

                                                So, I actually do not think at all that there was any difference whatsoever compared to prior trials. And even when you look at the ENDURANCE Supplement Trial, which is probably the most contemporary comparison of HeartMate II stroke rates, with MOMENTUM 3, the ENDURANCE Supplement Trial was only a one year trial, and the stroke rates even at one year were right on target with what we observed at the HeartMate II group in MOMENTUM 3. So, frankly that criticism is probably an unfounded criticism.

Dr Biykem Bozkurt:         Thank you.

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Wow, thank you Mandeep and Biykem, for really helping us go under the hood with this paper. I'm heart failure trained as well, but I learned so much, I'm sure our listeners did as well, and I'm sure you agree too Greg.

                                                Thank you so much for joining us today. Don't forget to tune in again next week.

                                                This program is Copyright American Heart Association 2019.