Predicting Lipid-Rich Plaque Progression in Coronary Arteries Using Multimodal Imaging and Wall Shear Stress Signatures

Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2024 Apr;44(4):976-986. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.123.320337. Epub 2024 Feb 8.


Background: Plaque composition and wall shear stress (WSS) magnitude act as well-established players in coronary plaque progression. However, WSS magnitude per se does not completely capture the mechanical stimulus to which the endothelium is subjected, since endothelial cells experience changes in the WSS spatiotemporal configuration on the luminal surface. This study explores WSS profile and lipid content signatures of plaque progression to identify novel biomarkers of coronary atherosclerosis.

Methods: Thirty-seven patients with acute coronary syndrome underwent coronary computed tomography angiography, near-infrared spectroscopy intravascular ultrasound, and optical coherence tomography of at least 1 nonculprit vessel at baseline and 1-year follow-up. Baseline coronary artery geometries were reconstructed from intravascular ultrasound and coronary computed tomography angiography and combined with flow information to perform computational fluid dynamics simulations to assess the time-averaged WSS magnitude (TAWSS) and the variability in the contraction/expansion action exerted by WSS on the endothelium, quantifiable in terms of topological shear variation index (TSVI). Plaque progression was measured as intravascular ultrasound-derived percentage plaque atheroma volume change at 1-year follow-up. Plaque composition information was extracted from near-infrared spectroscopy and optical coherence tomography.

Results: Exposure to high TSVI and low TAWSS was associated with higher plaque progression (4.00±0.69% and 3.60±0.62%, respectively). Plaque composition acted synergistically with TSVI or TAWSS, resulting in the highest plaque progression (≥5.90%) at locations where lipid-rich plaque is exposed to high TSVI or low TAWSS.

Conclusions: Luminal exposure to high TSVI, solely or combined with a lipid-rich plaque phenotype, is associated with enhanced plaque progression at 1-year follow-up. Where plaque progression occurred, low TAWSS was also observed. These findings suggest TSVI, in addition to low TAWSS, as a potential biomechanical predictor for plaque progression, showing promise for clinical translation to improve patient prognosis.

Keywords: coronary artery disease; hemodynamics; patient-specific modeling; plaque, atherosclerotic; ultrasonography.

MeSH terms

  • Computed Tomography Angiography
  • Coronary Angiography
  • Coronary Artery Disease* / diagnostic imaging
  • Coronary Vessels / diagnostic imaging
  • Endothelial Cells
  • Humans
  • Lipids
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic*
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Lipids