Background: Statins represent a key treatment for cardiovascular disease. Nevertheless, the direct effects of statin treatment on the composition of atherosclerotic plaques remain elusive.
Objectives: We aimed to investigate the association of statin treatment with the presence of different plaque components located in the carotid arteries within a population-based setting.
Methods: From the population-based Rotterdam Study, 1740 participants with carotid atherosclerosis (mean age 72.9 years, 46% women) underwent MRI of the carotid arteries to determine the presence of calcification, lipid core, and intraplaque hemorrhage. Information for the duration and dosage of statin use was obtained from pharmacy records for all participants. We used logistic regression models to study the association of statin use with the presence of plaque components.
Results: Statin treatment was associated with a higher presence of calcification (OR: 1.73 [95% CI: 1.22-2.44]). Longer duration of use strengthened this association (OR: 1.82 [95% CI: 1.00-3.33] for 10 to 48 months, and OR 1.74 [95% CI: 1.09-2.77] for >48 months, compared to OR: 1.65 [95% CI: 0.94-2.89] for ≤10 months). Current statin treatment was also associated with a lower presence of lipid core (OR: 0.66 [95% CI: 0.42-1.04]), but only when using statins for 10 months or less. Any dosage of statins was associated with a higher presence of calcification, whilst only high dosages (DDD > 1.33) were associated with a lower presence of lipid core.
Conclusions: Active, high-dosage statin use seems to beneficially influence the composition of carotid atherosclerosis by shifting the composition from vulnerable plaque with a lipid core to more stable calcified plaque.
Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Carotid artery; Epidemiology; MRI; Plaque composition; Statin.
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