Computed tomographic angiography characteristics of atherosclerotic plaques subsequently resulting in acute coronary syndrome

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2009 Jun 30;54(1):49-57. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2009.02.068.


Objectives: In a computed tomographic (CT) angiography study, we identified the characteristics of atherosclerotic lesions that were associated with subsequent development of acute coronary syndrome (ACS).

Background: The CT characteristics of culprit lesions in ACS include positive vessel remodeling (PR) and low-attenuation plaques (LAP). These 2 features have been observed in the lesions that have already resulted in ACS, but their prospective relation to ACS has not been previously described.

Methods: In 1,059 patients who underwent CT angiography, atherosclerotic lesions were analyzed for the presence of 2 features: PR and LAP. The remodeling index, and plaque and LAP areas and volumes were calculated. The plaque characteristics of lesions resulting in ACS during the follow-up of 27 +/- 10 months were evaluated.

Results: Of the 45 patients showing plaques with both PR and LAP (2-feature positive plaques), ACS developed in 10 (22.2%), compared with 1 (3.7%) of the 27 patients with plaques displaying either feature (1-feature positive plaques). In only 4 (0.5%) of the 820 patients with neither PR nor LAP (2-feature negative plaques) did ACS develop. None of the 167 patients with normal angiograms had acute coronary events (p < 0.001). ACS was independently predicted by PR and/or LAP (hazard ratio: 22.8, 95% confidence interval: 6.9 to 75.2, p < 0.001). Among 2- or 1-feature positive segments, those resulting in ACS demonstrated significantly larger remodeling index (126.7 +/- 3.9% vs. 113.4 +/- 1.6%, p = 0.003), plaque volume (134.9 +/- 14.1 mm(3) vs. 57.8 +/- 5.7 mm(3), p < 0.001), LAP volume (20.4 +/- 3.4 mm(3) vs. 1.1 +/- 1.4 mm(3), p < 0.001), and percent LAP/total plaque area (21.4 +/- 3.7 mm(2) vs. 7.7 +/- 1.5 mm(2), p = 0.001) compared with segments not resulting in ACS.

Conclusions: The patients demonstrating positively remodeled coronary segments with low-attenuation plaques on CT angiography were at a higher risk of ACS developing over time when compared with patients having lesions without these characteristics.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / etiology*
  • Aged
  • Atherosclerosis / classification
  • Atherosclerosis / complications
  • Atherosclerosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Calcinosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Coronary Angiography
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed