Vessel-specific plaque features on coronary computed tomography angiography among patients of varying atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk

Eur Heart J Cardiovasc Imaging. 2022 Aug 22;23(9):1171-1179. doi: 10.1093/ehjci/jeac029.


Aims: The relationship between AtheroSclerotic CardioVascular Disease (ASCVD) risk and vessel-specific plaque evaluation using coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA), focusing on plaque extent and composition, has not been examined. To evaluate differences in quantified plaque characteristics (using CCTA) between the three major coronary arteries [left anterior descending (LAD), right coronary (RCA), and left circumflex (LCx)] among subgroups of patients with varying ASCVD risk.

Methods and results: Patients were included from a prospective, international registry of consecutive patients who underwent CCTA for evaluation of coronary artery disease. ASCVD risk groups were <7.5% (low), 7.5-20% (intermediate), and ≥20% (high). Among the ASCVD risk groups, the three coronary arteries were compared regarding quantified plaque volume and composition. Whole-heart plaque quantification was performed in 1340 patients (age 60 ± 9 years, 58% men). Across low, intermediate, and high ASCVD risk patients, the volume of plaque increased proportionally but was least in the LCx (7.4, 9.0, and 25.3 mm3, respectively) as compared with the RCA (19.3, 32.6, and 67.0 mm3, respectively, all P ≤ 0.006) and LAD (39.9, 60.8, and 93.3 mm3, respectively, all P < 0.001). In each ASCVD risk group, the composition of plaque in the LCx exhibited the least necrotic core and fibrofatty plaque (P < 0.05 vs. LAD and RCA).

Conclusion: Among patients with varying risk of ASCVD, plaque in the LCx is decidedly less and is comprised of less non-calcified plaque supporting prior evidence of the lower rates of acute coronary events in this vessel.

Keywords: atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease; coronary arteries; coronary artery disease; coronary computed tomography angiography; plaque composition; plaque distribution.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atherosclerosis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases*
  • Computed Tomography Angiography
  • Coronary Angiography / methods
  • Coronary Artery Disease* / diagnostic imaging
  • Coronary Vessels
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic* / diagnostic imaging
  • Prospective Studies