Association between clinical factors and high-risk plaque features, such as, thin or ruptured cap, intraplaque hemorrhage, presence of lipid-rich necrotic core (LRNC), and increased LRNC volume as assessed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), was examined in patients with established vascular disease in the Atherothrombosis Intervention in Metabolic Syndrome With Low HDL/High Triglycerides (AIM-HIGH) trial. A total of 214 subjects underwent carotid MRI and had acceptable image quality for assessment of plaque burden, tissue contents, and MRI-modified American Heart Association lesion type by a core laboratory. We found that 77% of subjects had carotid plaques, 52% had lipid-containing plaques, and 11% had advanced American Heart Association type-VI lesions with possible surface defect, intraplaque hemorrhage, or mural thrombus. Type-VI lesions were associated with older age (odds ratio [OR] = 2.6 per 5 years increase, p <0.001). After adjusting for age, these lesions were associated with history of cerebrovascular disease (OR = 4.1, p = 0.01), higher levels of lipoprotein(a) (OR = 2.0 per 1 SD increase, p = 0.02), and larger percent wall volume (PWV [OR = 4.6 per 1 SD increase, p <0.001]) but, were negatively associated with metabolic syndrome (OR = 0.2, p = 0.02). Presence of LRNC was associated with the male gender (OR = 3.2, p = 0.02) and PWV (OR = 3.8 per 1 SD, p <0.001); however, it was negatively associated with diabetes (OR = 0.4, p = 0.02) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (OR = 0.7 per 1 SD, p = 0.02). Increased percent LRNC was associated with PWV (regression coefficient = 0.36, p <0.001) and negatively associated with ApoA1 levels (regression coefficient = -0.20, p = 0.03). In conclusion, older age, male gender, history of cerebrovascular disease, larger plaque burden, higher lipoprotein(a), and lower high-density lipoprotein cholesterol or ApoA1 level have statistically significant associations with high-risk plaque features. Metabolic syndrome and diabetes showed negative associations in this population.
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