Lipids and cardiovascular calcification: contributions to plaque vulnerability

Curr Opin Lipidol. 2021 Oct 1;32(5):308-314. doi: 10.1097/MOL.0000000000000777.


Purpose of review: Cardiovascular calcification, a common feature of atherosclerotic lesions, has long been known to associate with cardiovascular risk. The roles of lipoproteins in atherosclerosis are also established, and lipid-modifying therapies have shown capacity for plaque regression. However, the association of lipid-modifying therapies with calcification is more complex, and currently no medical therapies have been found to reverse or attenuate calcification in patients. In this review, we summarize recent developments in our understanding of the interplay between lipids and cardiovascular calcification, as well as new imaging modalities for assessing calcified atherosclerotic plaque vulnerability.

Recent findings: Recent clinical studies have highlighted the associations of lipoprotein subtypes, such as low-density and high-density lipoprotein particles, as well as lipoprotein (a) [Lp(a)], with coronary calcification and calcific aortic valve disease. Further, evidence continues to emerge for the utility of fused 18F-sodium fluoride positron-emission tomographic and computed tomographic (18F-NaF PET/CT) imaging in characterizing the microarchitecture and vulnerability of atherosclerotic plaque, in both humans and animal models.

Summary: The relationship between lipids and cardiovascular calcification is complex, and new imaging techniques, such as 18F-NaF PET/CT imaging, may allow for better identification of disease-modifying therapies and prediction of calcified plaque progression and stability to help guide clinical management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Lipids
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic* / complications
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic* / diagnostic imaging
  • Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography / methods
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Sodium Fluoride


  • Lipids
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Sodium Fluoride