A histopathological analysis of the epidemiology of coronary atherosclerosis: an autopsy study

Diagn Pathol. 2015 Jul 3:10:87. doi: 10.1186/s13000-015-0324-y.


Background: Atherosclerosis accounts for a large proportion of cardiovascular system associated morbidity and mortality. We studied the possible association between the histopathological changes of the coronary atherosclerotic lesions and the risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD) using autopsy cases.

Methods: We performed an autopsy analysis (n = 13, 4 women, 9 men mean age 67.5 years; age range 56-93 years) of SCD which occurred in patients aged over 50 years during March 2010 to December 2013. The following variables were considered: sex, age, medical history, autopsy findings to macroscopic and histological evaluation of the heart. The autopsies were performed according to standard techniques. In all subjects, the heart was dissected following standard autopsy protocol and a 5 cm section of the right coronary artery (RCA) in the atrio-ventricular groove from its origin, a 5 cm segment of the left anterior descending artery (LADA) distal to the origin of the circumflex artery, but including the region of origin of the circumflex branch and left coronary artery (LCA) from its origin till the circumflex branch were excised, dissected out, fixed in 10% formalin, marked for identification and sent for histopathological analysis.

Results: Atherosclerotic plaques were identified in 6.5% of specimens, 69.34% of males and 30.66% of female. Such plaques were typically concentric and more represented with necrosis, calcification, cholesterol crystals, and giant cells, as well as had a higher inflammatory cell count. Furthermore, intima and media thickness of coronary arteries were significantly higher in studied specimens with visualize the connective tissue layers of the adventitia and the fatty acid containing adipose cells in the periadventitial tissue. Furthermore, the degree of microscopic lesion of atherosclerosis increased proportionally with the increase in the intensity of lipid deposition and with the percentage of collagen in the atherosclerotic plaques.

Conclusion: In this study, age estimate to be a risk factor for coronary atherosclerosis in individuals more than 50 years old and may be used to predict SCD. Altogether, an enhanced understanding of the pathobiologic processes responsible for atherosclerotic changes might allow for early identification of a high-risk coronary plaque and thereby provide a rationale for innovative diagnostic and/or therapeutic strategies for the management of coronary patients and prevention of acute coronary syndromes.

Publication types

  • Retracted Publication

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Autopsy
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Biopsy
  • Cause of Death
  • Collagen / analysis
  • Coronary Artery Disease / metabolism
  • Coronary Artery Disease / mortality*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / pathology*
  • Coronary Vessels / chemistry
  • Coronary Vessels / pathology*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / pathology*
  • Female
  • Fibrosis
  • Humans
  • Iran / epidemiology
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Necrosis
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic
  • Risk Factors
  • Vascular Calcification / mortality
  • Vascular Calcification / pathology


  • Biomarkers
  • Lipids
  • Collagen