Background: Smoking cessation rapidly reduces cardiovascular risk. The pathophysiological mechanisms involved are still being debated. We measured structural and functional arterial wall properties of the femoral and carotid arteries after smoking cessation to investigate their possible role in cardiovascular risk reduction.
Methods: Out of 127 smokers, 33 proved to stop smoking for two years. They were compared with 50 nonsmokers and 55 persistent smokers in a prospective study. Cross-sectional compliance and distensibility coefficients as well as intima-media thickness of both carotid arteries and of the right common femoral artery were measured ultrasonographically at baseline and 3, 6, 12 and 24 months after smoking cessation. The nonsmoking and persistent smokers group were measured twice at an interval of 24 months.
Results: Persistent smoking and two years of smoking cessation did not affect cross-sectional compliance and distensibility coefficients. Although at baseline intimal-medial layers were thicker in smokers, the change over time in intima-media thickness did not differ significantly between all three groups.
Conclusion: Two years of smoking cessation was not accompanied by a slower progression or a regression in intima-media thickness nor by an improved cross-sectional compliance or distensiblity coefficient. Nevertheless, smoking cessation should be recommended as it reduces cardiovascular risk rapidly after smoking cessation.