Comparison of quantitative atherosclerotic plaque burden from coronary CT angiography in patients with first acute coronary syndrome and stable coronary artery disease

J Cardiovasc Comput Tomogr. 2014 Sep-Oct;8(5):368-74. doi: 10.1016/j.jcct.2014.07.007. Epub 2014 Aug 23.


Background: Coronary CTA allows characterization of non-calcified and calcified plaque and identification of high-risk plaque features.

Objective: We aimed to quantitatively characterize and compare coronary plaque burden from CTA in patients with a first acute coronary syndrome (ACS) and controls with stable coronary artery disease.

Materials and methods: We retrospectively analyzed consecutive patients with non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) or unstable angina with a first ACS, who underwent CTA as part of their initial workup before invasive coronary angiography and age- and gender-matched controls with stable chest pain; controls also underwent CTA with subsequent invasive angiography (total n = 28). Culprit arteries were identified in ACS patients. Coronary arteries were analyzed by automated software to quantify calcified plaque (CP), noncalcified plaque (NCP), and low-density NCP (LD-NCP, attenuation <30 Hounsfield units) volumes, and corresponding burden (plaque volume × 100%/vessel volume), stenosis, remodeling index, contrast density difference (maximum percent difference in attenuation/cross-sectional area from proximal cross-section), and plaque length.

Results: ACS patients had fewer lesions (median, 1), with higher total NCP and LD-NCP burdens (NCP: 57.4% vs 41.5%; LD-NCP: 12.5% vs 8%; P ≤ .04), higher maximal stenoses (85.6% vs 53.0%; P = .003) and contrast density differences (46.1 vs 16.3%; P < .006). Per-patient CP burden was not different between ACS and controls. NCP and LD-NCP plaque burden was higher in culprit vs nonculprit arteries (NCP: 57.8% vs 9.5%; LD-NCP: 8.4% vs 0.6%; P ≤ .0003); CP was not significantly different. Culprit arteries had increased plaque lengths, remodeling indices, stenoses, and contrast density differences (46.1% vs 10.9%; P ≤ .001).

Conclusion: Noninvasive quantitative coronary artery analysis identified several differences for ACS, both on per-patient and per-vessel basis, including increased NCP, LD-NCP burden, and contrast density difference.

Keywords: Acute coronary syndrome; Coronary CT angiography; Coronary plaque; Plaque burden; Plaque quantification; Plaque volume; Quantitative coronary tree analysis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / diagnostic imaging*
  • Calcinosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Coronary Angiography / methods*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / diagnostic imaging*
  • Coronary Stenosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiographic Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*