Purpose: To investigate whether short-term, intensive lipid therapy leads to changes in microvascular characteristics, as measured by using dynamic contrast material-enhanced (DCE) magnetic resonance (MR) imaging.
Materials and methods: Institutional review board approval and informed consent were obtained for this HIPAA-compatible study. Subjects with established coronary artery disease or carotid artery stenosis of 15% or greater determined by using ultrasonography and with levels of apolipoprotein B of 120 mg/dL (1.2 g/L) or greater were enrolled in an ongoing study (clinical trial NCT00715273). All received intensive lipid therapy to achieve targeted high- and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and underwent serial serum monitoring including high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (HsCRP) level measurements. Carotid artery MR imaging examinations including morphologic and DCE MR images were obtained at baseline and 1 year after treatment. In subjects with advanced lesions (>2 mm thick), MR image analysis was performed, including measurement of lipid-rich necrotic core size and kinetic modeling of DCE MR images to assess changes in the transfer constant (K(trans)). The differences in K(trans) between baseline and 1-year follow-up were compared by using the Wilcoxon signed rank test, and associations were assessed by using the Spearman rank correlation coefficient.
Results: Twenty-eight subjects with interpretable DCE MR imaging results at both baseline and 1-year follow-up were included. After 1 year of treatment, a significant reduction was found in mean K(trans) (0.085 min(-1) ± 0.037 [standard deviation] to 0.067 min(-1) ± 0.028, P = .02). Reduction in K(trans) was not significantly correlated with observed reductions in lipid-rich necrotic core size or reductions in HsCRP level.
Conclusion: These findings suggest that DCE MR imaging may be a useful imaging method for the assessment of the therapeutic response of the vasa vasorum in patients with atherosclerotic plaque.