Relationship between coronary hyper-intensive plaques identified by cardiovascular magnetic resonance and clinical severity of acute coronary syndrome

J Cardiovasc Magn Reson. 2021 Feb 25;23(1):12. doi: 10.1186/s12968-021-00706-7.


Background: Coronary hyper-intense plaque (CHIP) detected on T1-weighted cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) has been shown to associate with vulnerable plaque features and worse outcomes in low- and intermediate-risk populations. However, the prevalence of CHIP and its clinical significance in the higher-risk acute coronary syndrome (ACS) population have not been systematically studied. This study aims to assess the relationship between CHIP and ACS clinical severity using intracoronary optical coherence tomography (OCT) as the reference.

Methods: A total of 62 patients with known or suspected coronary artery disease were prospectively enrolled including a clinically diagnosed ACS group (n = 50) and a control group with stable angina pectoris (n = 12). The ACS group consisted of consecutive patients including unstable angina pectoris (n = 27), non-ST-segment-elevation myocardial infarction (non-STEMI) (n = 8), and ST-segment-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) (n = 15), respectively. All patients underwent non-contrast coronary CMR to determine the plaque-to-myocardium signal intensity ratio (PMR).

Results: Among the four groups of patients, a progressive increase in the prevalence of CHIPs (stable angina, 8%; unstable angina, 26%; non-STEMI, 38%; STEMI, 67%; p = 0.009), and PMR values (stable angina, 1.1; unstable angina, 1.2; non-STEMI, 1.3; STEMI, 1.6; median values, P = 0.004) were observed. Thrombus (7/8, 88% vs. 4/22, 18%, p = 0.001) and plaque rupture (5/8, 63% vs. 2/22, 9%, p = 0.007) were significantly more prevalent in CHIPs than in plaques without hyper-intensity. Elevated PMR was associated with high-risk plaque features including plaque rupture, thrombus, and intimal vasculature. A positive correlation was observed between PMR and the number of high-risk plaque features identified by OCT (r = 0.44, p = 0.015).

Conclusions: The prevalence of CHIPs and PMR are positively associated with the disease severity and high-risk plaque morphology in ACS.

Keywords: Acute coronary syndrome; Cardiovascular magnetic resonance; Coronary hyper-intense plaque (CHIP); Optical coherence tomography; Thrombus.