Background: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can noninvasively assess changes in atherosclerotic plaque morphology and composition. The ORION trial assessed the effects of rosuvastatin on carotid plaque volume and composition.
Methods: The randomized, double-blind ORION trial used 1.5-T MRI to image carotid atherosclerotic plaques at baseline and after 24 months of treatment. Forty-three patients with fasting low-density lipoprotein cholesterol > or = 100 and < 250 mg/dL and 16% to 79% carotid stenosis by duplex ultrasound were randomized to receive either a low (5 mg) or high (40/80 mg) dose of rosuvastatin.
Results: After 24 months, 33 patients had matched serial MRI scans to compare by reviewers blinded to clinical data, dosage, and temporal sequence of scans. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol was significantly reduced from baseline in both the low- and high-dose groups (38.2% and 59.9%, respectively, both P < .001). At 24 months, there were no significant changes in carotid plaque volume for either dosage group. In all patients with a lipid-rich necrotic core (LRNC) at baseline, the mean proportion of the vessel wall composed of LRNC (%LRNC) decreased by 41.4% (P = .005).
Conclusions: In patients with moderate hypercholesterolemia, both low- and high-dose rosuvastatin were effective in reducing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Furthermore, rosuvastatin was associated with a reduction in %LRNC, whereas the overall plaque burden remained unchanged over the course of 2 years of treatment. These findings provide evidence that statin therapy may have a beneficial effect on plaque volume and composition, as assessed by noninvasive MRI.