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1.  A predictor of atheroma progression in patients achieving very low levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol 
An aggressive reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) with statins produces regression or stabilization of coronary artery plaques. However, after achieving very low levels of LDL-C, atheroma regression is not observed in all patients. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the determinants of atheroma progression despite achieving very low levels of LDL-C. The effects of 8-month statin therapy on coronary atherosclerosis were evaluated using virtual histology intravascular ultrasound in the TRUTH study. Of these, 33 patients who achieved an on-treatment LDL-C level of <70 mg/dl were divided into 2 groups according to increase in plaque volume (progressors, n= 16) or decrease in plaque volume (regressors, n= 17) during an 8-month follow-up period. At the 8-month follow-up, serum LDL-C and apolipoprotein B levels were significantly lower in progressors than in regressors; however, significant increases in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and apolipoprotein AI and decreases in high-sensitivity C-reactive protein and oxidized LDL were observed only in regressors. The changes in the n-3 to n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid ratios significantly differed between the 2 groups. Multivariate regression analysis showed that a decrease in the eicosapentaenoic acid + docosahexaenoic acid/arachidonic acid ratio was a significant predictor associated with atheroma progression (β= -0.512, p= 0.004). In conclusions, n-3 to n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid ratios affected coronary artery plaque progression and regression in patients who achieved very low levels of LDL-C during statin therapy.
PMCID: PMC3819585  PMID: 24224137
Atheroma; low-density lipoprotein cholesterol; polyunsaturated fatty acid; statin; virtual histology intravascular ultrasound
2.  Early Differential Changes in Coronary Plaque Composition According to Plaque Stability Following Statin Initiation in Acute Coronary Syndrome: Classification and Analysis by Intravascular Ultrasound-Virtual Histology 
Yonsei Medical Journal  2013;54(2):336-344.
The aim of this study was to demonstrate the early effects of statin treatment on plaque composition according to plaque stability on Intravascular Ultrasound-Virtual Histology at 6 months after a coronary event. Previous trials have demonstrated that lipid lowering therapy with statins decreases plaque volume and increases plaque echogenicity in patients with coronary artery disease.
Materials and Methods
Fifty-four patients (54 lesions) with acute coronary syndrome were prospectively enrolled. We classified and analyzed the target plaques into two types according to plaque stability: thin-cap fibroatheroma (TCFA, n=14) and non-TCFA (n=40). The primary end point was change in percent necrotic core in the 10-mm subsegment with the most disease.
After 6 months of statin therapy, no change was demonstrated in the mean percentage of necrotic core (18.7±8.5% to 20.0±11.0%, p=0.38). There was a significant reduction in necrotic core percentage in patients with TCFA (21.3±7.2% to 14.4±8.9%, p=0.017), but not in patients with non-TCFA. Moreover, change in percent necrotic core was significantly correlated with change in high-sensitivity C-reactive protein levels (r=0.4, p=0.003). Changes in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and lipid core percentage demonstrated no significant associations.
A clear reduction of lipid core was observed only for the TCFA plaque type, suggesting that changes in plaque composition following statin therapy might occur earlier in vulnerable plaque than in stable plaque; the effect may be related to the anti-inflammatory effects of statins.
PMCID: PMC3575992  PMID: 23364965
Acute coronary syndromes; statin; IVUS-VH
3.  Correlations between Coronary Plaque Tissue Composition Assessed by Virtual Histology and Blood Levels of Biomarkers for Coronary Artery Disease 
Yonsei Medical Journal  2012;53(3):508-516.
We investigated correlations of coronary plaque composition determined by virtual histology (VH) intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) and blood levels of biomarkers that represent the vulnerability of coronary plaques.
Materials and Methods
Pre- and postprocedural blood levels of high sensitivity C-reactive protein, soluble CD40 ligand (sCD40L), matrix metalloproteinase-9, and neopterin were measured in 70 patients with stable angina (SA) or unstable angina (UA) who were undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) for single lesions. We evaluated the data for correlations between these biomarkers and necrotic core contents in PCI target lesions analyzed by VH.
Clinical characteristics, IVUS, VH, and biomarker blood levels were not different between the SA and the UA group except for more frequent previous statin use (52.3% vs. 23.1%, p=0.017) and lower remodeling index in the SA group (0.98±0.09 vs. 1.10±0.070, p<0.001). Among the biomarkers evaluated, only pre-PCI neopterin level showed a weakly significant correlation with the absolute volume of the necrotic core (r=0.320, p=0.008). Pre- and post-PCI blood levels of sCD40L (r=0.220, p=0.072; r=0.231, p=0.062) and post-PCI blood level of neopterin (r=0.238, p=0.051) showed trends toward weakly positive correlations with the absolute volume of necrotic core.
We found a weakly positive correlation between the pre-PCI neopterin level and necrotic core volume in the PCI-target lesion. The clinical implications of our findings need to be investigated in further studies.
PMCID: PMC3343421  PMID: 22476993
Atherosclerosis; coronary artery disease; inflammation; intravascular ultrasound
4.  A randomized placebo-controlled study on the effect of nifedipine on coronary endothelial function and plaque formation in patients with coronary artery disease: the ENCORE II study† 
European Heart Journal  2009;30(13):1590-1597.
Endothelial dysfunction and plaque formation are features of atherosclerosis. Inhibition of L-type calcium channels or HMG-CoA pathway improves endothelial function and reduces plaque size. Thus, we investigated in stable coronary artery disease (CAD) the effects of a calcium antagonist on coronary endothelial function and plaque size.
Methods and results
In 454 patients undergoing PCI, acetylcholine (10−6 to 10−4 M) was infused in a coronary segment without significant CAD. Changes in coronary diameter were measured and an intravascular ultrasound examination (IVUS) was performed. On top of statin therapy, patients were randomized in a double-blind fashion to placebo or nifedipine GITS 30–60 mg/day and followed for 18–24 months.
Blood pressure was lower on nifedipine than on placebo by 5.8/2.1 mmHg (P < 0.001) as was total and LDL cholesterol (4.8 mg/dL; P = 0.495), while HDL was higher (3.6 mg/dL; P = 0.026). In the most constricting segment, nifedipine reduced vasoconstriction to acetylcholine (14.0% vs. placebo 7.7%; P < 0.0088). The percentage change in plaque volume with nifedipine and placebo, respectively, was 1.0 and 1.9%, ns.
The ENCORE II trial demonstrates in a multi-centre setting that calcium channel blockade with nifedipine for up to 2 years improves coronary endothelial function on top of statin treatment, but did not show an effect of nifedipine on plaque volume.
PMCID: PMC3295238  PMID: 19474053
Acetylcholine; Angiography; Endothelium; IVUS; Plaque
5.  Effects of atorvastatin on serum lipids, serum inflammation and plaque morphology in patients with stable atherosclerotic plaques 
Statin treatment in patients with coronary heart disease is associated with a reduced incidence of short-term adverse events and endpoint cardiac events. However, the effects of statin treatment on atherosclerotic plaques, particularly stable plaques, remain poorly defined. In total, 228 consecutive patients with stable atherosclerotic plaques who had undergone coronary arteriography (CAG) and intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) were randomly assigned to receive placebo (placebo group, n=54) or atorvastatin (ATOR) at a single daily dose of 10 mg (ATOR 10 mg group, n=47), 20 mg (ATOR 20 mg group, n=45), 40 mg (ATOR 40 mg group, n=43) or 80 mg (ATOR 80 mg group, n=39). Endpoints, including serum lipids, serum inflammation, plaque volume and percentage of plaque necrosis were assessed after 3–6 months. At baseline, mean low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) levels, as well as plaque volumes and percentages of plaque necrosis, were similar between all groups. At 6 months of follow-up, the LDL levels in the ATOR groups were below those at their respective baselines (P<0.01). HDL levels in the ATOR 80 mg group following treatment were significantly higher compared with baseline (P=0.001). Additionally, they were significantly higher compared with those in the placebo, ATOR 10, 20 and 40 mg groups (P<0.01, P=0.001, P=0.048, P=0.047, respectively). Hs-CRP levels in the placebo group following treatment were higher compared with baseline levels (6.87±2.62 vs. 5.07±1.80, P<0.01), but hs-CRP levels in the ATOR 80 mg group following treatment were lower compared with baseline (3.59±1.07 vs. 6.10±2.12, P<0.01). According to the virtual histology (VH) of IVUS, the percentages of plaque necrosis following treatment in the placebo and ATOR 10 mg groups rose above baseline levels (15.51±12.56 vs. 7.69±1.31%, 13.54±11.76 vs. 7.83±1.43%, P<0.01) and conformed to the diagnostic criteria for unstable plaques (15.51±12.56, 13.54±11.76%). By contrast, in the ATOR 20, 40 and 80 mg groups, percentages of plaque necrosis remained stable following treatment compared with baseline (P=0.069, 0.846 and 0.643, respectively). Plaque volumes following treatment in the placebo, ATOR 10 and 20 mg groups were similar to baseline levels. However, in the ATOR 40 and 80 mg groups, plaque volumes decreased following treatment compared with baseline plaque volumes (30.69±8.12 vs. 37.09±12.01 mm3, 24.99±1.01 vs. 36.47±14.68 mm3, P=0.019, P<0.01, respectively). ATOR (20 mg/day) is able to lower LDL to standard levels while ATOR 40 mg/day was superior to 20 mg/day and had similar effects to 80 mg/day. Only ATOR 80 mg/day was able to increase HDL levels. Hs-CRP in patients without ATOR was higher and ATOR 80 mg/day decreased levels. ATOR ≥20 mg/day is able to stabilize plaques and ATOR 80 mg/day was superior to 20 and 40 mg/day. Thus, ATOR 40–80 mg/day reduces the volume of plaques.
PMCID: PMC3494114  PMID: 23226776
dose-ranging; atorvastatin; serum lipids; serum inflammation; plaque morphology; stable atherosclerotic plaques
6.  A Statin-Loaded Reconstituted High-Density Lipoprotein Nanoparticle Inhibits Atherosclerotic Plaque Inflammation 
Nature communications  2014;5:3065.
Inflammation is a key feature of atherosclerosis and a target for therapy. Statins have potent anti-inflammatory properties but these cannot be fully exploited with oral statin therapy due to low systemic bioavailability. Here we present an injectable reconstituted high-density lipoprotein (rHDL) nanoparticle carrier vehicle that delivers statins to atherosclerotic plaques. We demonstrate the anti-inflammatory effect of statin-rHDL in vitro and show this effect is mediated through inhibition of the mevalonate pathway. We also apply statin-rHDL nanoparticles in vivo in an apolipoprotein E-knockout mouse model of atherosclerosis and show they accumulate in atherosclerotic lesions where they directly affect plaque macrophages. Finally we demonstrate that a three-month low-dose statin-rHDL treatment regimen inhibits plaque inflammation progression, while a one-week high-dose regimen markedly decreases inflammation in advanced atherosclerotic plaques. Statin-rHDL represents a novel potent atherosclerosis nanotherapy that directly affects plaque inflammation.
PMCID: PMC4001802  PMID: 24445279
7.  Effect of atorvastatin therapy on borderline vulnerable lesions in patients with acute coronary syndrome 
It is still controversial whether borderline lesions with a vulnerable plaque should be stented early or simply treated pharmacologically. No data exist concerning the potential effects of statin therapy on borderline vulnerable lesions in patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS).
Material and methods
Fifty patients with ACS whose culprit lesions were classified as “borderline lesions” were enrolled. All patients were treated with atorvastatin (20 mg) for 12 months. Intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) was performed and matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1), and high-sensitive C-reactive protein (hsCRP) levels were measured at baseline and 12-month follow-up.
At 12-month follow-up, we found: 1) IVUS revealed that minimal lumen cross-sectional area (CSA) increased but plaque/media (P&M) area and plaque burden decreased. A total of 25 soft plaques (50%) were transformed into fibrous plaques. 2) ApoB, MMP-9 and hsCRP levels decreased, but TIMP-1 level increased. 3) Stepwise multivariate linear regression analysis showed that the independent predictors for changes in P&M area/year were the decrease in MMP-9 and hsCRP levels.
Atorvastatin therapy stabilized borderline vulnerable plaques and reversed atherosclerosis progression in patients with ACS. Reversal of this progression was accompanied by a decrease in the levels of plasma MMP-9 and hsCRP. Changes in MMP-9 and hsCRP could predict vulnerable plaque stabilization.
PMCID: PMC3258749  PMID: 22295025
intravascular ultrasound; atorvastatin; acute coronary syndrome; vulnerable plaque
8.  Relationship between Advanced Glycation End Products and Plaque Progression in Patients with Acute Coronary Syndrome: The JAPAN-ACS Sub-study 
The Japan Assessment of Pitavastatin and Atorvastatin in Acute Coronary Syndrome (JAPAN-ACS) trial demonstrated that early aggressive statin therapy in patients with ACS significantly reduces plaque volume (PV). Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and the receptors of AGEs (RAGE) may lead to angiopathy in diabetes mellitus (DM) and may affect on the development of coronary PV. The present sub-study of JAPAN-ACS investigates the association between AGEs and RAGE, and PV.
Intravascular ultrasound (IVUS)-guided percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) was undertaken, followed by the initiation of statin treatment (either 4 mg/day of pitavastatin or 20 mg/day of atorvastatin), in patients with ACS. In the 208 JAPAN-ACS subjects, PV using IVUS in non-culprit segment > 5 mm proximal or distal to the culprit lesion and, serum levels of AGEs and soluble RAGE (sRAGE) were measured at baseline and 8–12 months after PCI.
At baseline, no differences in the levels of either AGEs or sRAGE were found between patients with DM and those without DM. The levels of AGEs decreased significantly with statin therapy from 8.6 ± 2.2 to 8.0 ± 2.1 U/ml (p < 0.001), whereas the levels of sRAGE did not change. There were no significant correlations between changes in PV and the changes in levels of AGEs as well as sRAGE. However, high baseline AGEs levels were significantly associated with plaque progression (odds ratio, 1.21; 95% confidence interval, 1.01 - 1.48; p = 0.044) even after adjusting for DM in multivariate logistic regression models.
High baseline AGEs levels were associated with plaque progression in the JAPAN-ACS trial. This relationship was independent of DM. These findings suggest AGEs may be related to long-term glucose control and other oxidative stresses in ACS.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3571912  PMID: 23289728
Advanced glycation end products; Acute coronary syndrome; Intravascular ultrasound; Plaque; Statins
9.  A peripheral blood gene expression score is associated with plaque volume and phenotype by intravascular ultrasound with radiofrequency backscatter analysis: results from the ATLANTA study 
A composite, peripheral gene expression score based on quantitative RNA-measurements has been validated for detecting stenosis against invasive coronary X-ray angiography. IVUS/VH has been validated for quantitative measurements of coronary plaque volume and composition and has been shown to be predictive of outcomes and treatment effects. The correlation between peripheral gene expression and coronary plaque composition by intravascular ultrasound with radiofrequency backscatter (IVUS/VH) is unknown.
Peripheral blood gene expression score (GES) was prospectively measured in 18 patients undergoing IVUS/VH. Plaque volume and composition [fibrous tissue (FI), fibro-fatty tissue (FF), necrotic core (NC) and dense calcium (DC)] were quantified in 3 dimensions in all plaques within the entire pullback. The relationship to GES was assessed by Spearman rank correlation.
Mean age was 61.1±8.6 years; 67% were male. 1,158 mm of coronary anatomy was imaged by IVUS/VH. Using a validated scale of 1-40, mean GES was 21.6±9.4. GES was associated with plaque volume (R2=0.55; P=0.018), NC volume (R2=0.56; P=0.015), DC volume (R2=0.60; P=0.007), and non-calcified plaque volume (R2=0.50; P=0.036) by Spearman rank correlation.
In this preliminary report, increased GES was associated with higher plaque volume and a more vulnerable plaque phenotype as evidenced by NC and DC. This composite GES is not only associated with obstructive coronary disease, but also with higher plaque volume and vulnerable phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3839219  PMID: 24282740
Gene expression; intravascular ultrasound; necrotic core; plaque volume; vulnerable plaque
10.  The efficacy and safety of intensive statin therapy: a meta-analysis of randomized trials 
Recent lipid guidelines recommend aggressive low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol lowering in patients with coronary artery disease. To clarify the evidence for this recommendation, we conducted a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials that compared different intensities of statin therapy.
We searched electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Registery of Controlled Trials, Web of Science) for randomized controlled trials published up to July 19, 2007, that compared statin regimens of different intensities in adults with coronary artery disease and that reported cardiovascular events or mortality. Data were pooled using random-effects models to calculate odds ratios (OR).
A total of 7 trials (29 395 patients) were included. Compared with less intensive statin regimens, more intensive regimens further reduced LDL levels (0.72 mmol/L reduction, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.60–0.84 mmol/L), and reduced the risk of myocardial infarction (OR 0.83, 95% CI 0.77–0.91) and stroke (OR 0.82, 95% CI 0.71–0.95). Although there was no effect on mortality among patients with chronic coronary artery disease (OR 0.96, 95% CI 0.80–1.14), all-cause mortality was reduced among patients with acute coronary syndromes treated with more intensive statin regimens (OR 0.75, 95% CI 0.61–0.93). Compared with lower intensity regimens, more intensive regimens were associated with small absolute increases in rates of drug discontinuation (2.5%), elevated levels of aminotransferases (1%) and myopathy (0.5%), and there was no difference in noncardiovascular mortality. All 7 trials reported events by randomization arm rather than by LDL level achieved. About half of the patients treated with more intensive statin therapy did not achieve an LDL level of less than 2.0 mmol/L, and none of the trials tested combination therapies.
Our analysis supports the use of more intensive statin regimens in patients with established coronary artery disease. There is insufficient evidence to advocate treating to particular LDL targets, using combination lipid-lowering therapy to achieve these targets or for using more intensive regimens in patients without established coronary artery disease.
PMCID: PMC2244680  PMID: 18299547
11.  IVUS-based imaging modalities for tissue characterization: similarities and differences 
Gray-scale intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) is the modality that has been established as the golden standard for in vivo imaging of the vessel wall of the coronary arteries. The use of IVUS in clinical practice is an important diagnostic tool used for quantitative assessment of coronary artery disease. This has made IVUS the de-facto invasive imaging method to evaluate new interventional therapies such as new stent designs and for atherosclerosis progression-regression studies. However, the gray-scale representation of the coronary vessel wall and plaque morphology in combination with the limited resolution of the current IVUS catheters makes it difficult, if not impossible, to identify qualitatively (e.g. visually) the plaque morphology similar as that of histopathology, the golden standard to characterize and quantify coronary plaque tissue components. Meanwhile, this limitation has been partially overcome by new innovative IVUS-based post-processing methods such as: virtual histology IVUS (VH-IVUS, Volcano Therapeutics, Rancho Cordova, CA, USA), iMAP-IVUS (Bostoc Scientific, Santa Clara, CA, USA), Integrated Backscatter IVUS (IB-IVUS) and Automated Differential Echogenicity (ADE).
PMCID: PMC3078312  PMID: 21327914
Intravascular ultrasound; Radiofrequency data analysis; Atherosclerosis; Tissue characterization
12.  Vascular and metabolic effects of treatment of combined hyperlipidemia 
International journal of cardiology  2007;124(2):149-159.
Combined hyperlipidemia results from overproduction of hepatically synthesized apolipoprotein B in very low-density lipoproteins in association with reduced lipoprotein lipase activity. Thus, this condition is typically characterized by concurrent elevations in total cholesterol and triglycerides with decreased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. High levels of apolipoprotein B-containing lipoproteins, most prominently carried by low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles, are an important risk factor for coronary heart disease. Statin therapy is highly effective at lowering LDL cholesterol. Despite the benefits of statin treatment for lowering total and LDL cholesterol, many statin-treated patients still have initial or recurrent coronary heart disease events. In this regard, combined therapy with statins and fibrates is more effective in controlling atherogenic dyslipidemia in patients with combined hyperlipidemia than either drug alone. Furthermore, statins and fibrates activate PPARα in a synergistic manner providing a molecular rationale for combination treatment in coronary heart disease. Endothelial dysfunction associated with cardiovascular diseases may contribute to insulin resistance so that there may also be additional beneficial metabolic effects of combined statin/fibrates therapy. However, there has been little published evidence that combined therapy is synergistic or even better than monotherapy alone in clinical studies. Therefore, there is a great need to study the effects of combination therapy in patients. When statins are combined with gemfibrozil therapy, this is more likely to be accompanied by myopathy. However, this limitation is not observed when fenofibrate, bezafibrate, or ciprofibrate are used in combination therapy.
PMCID: PMC2758222  PMID: 17658632
Statins; Fibrates; Endothelial function; Insulin resistance; Combined hyperlipidemia; Safety
13.  Association of statin therapy with ventricular arrhythmias among patients with acute coronary syndrome 
Heart Asia  2013;5(1):39-41.
In addition to lowering cholesterol, statins stabilise atherosclerotic plaques and can potentially reduce the incidence of ventricular arrhythmias. We tested the hypothesis that prior statin therapy is associated with a lower incidence of inhospital ventricular arrhythmias among patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS).
The study population consisted of 2007 patients (mean age 64 years, 67.5% male) enrolled in the Thai Registry of Acute Coronary Syndrome, a prospective, multicentre, nationwide, observational study of patients with ACS. Patients were categorised as either statin users or non-users according to their reports of statin use before enrolment at their initial presentation. The primary endpoint was inhospital ventricular arrhythmias. The secondary endpoint was a composite endpoint of inhospital ventricular arrhythmias or inhospital cardiac death. A propensity-adjusted multivariate model was developed to assess the effects of statin use on the primary and secondary endpoints.
During a mean hospital stay of 7 days, a total of 96 patients (4.8%) died; 82 (4.1%) of the deaths were due to cardiac causes. The primary and secondary endpoints were reached in 163 patients (8.1%) and 194 patients (9.7%), respectively. A total of 525 patients (26.2%) had used statins prior to hospitalisation. After adjusting for the propensity scores and other relevant covariates, statin use was associated with lower risks of the primary (adjusted OR 0.505, 95% CI 0.276 to 0.923) and secondary endpoints (adjusted OR 0.498, 95% CI 0.276 to 0.897).
The use of statins is associated with a reduced incidence of ventricular arrhythmias among patients with ACS.
PMCID: PMC3622494  PMID: 23585812
14.  Rapid changes in plaque composition and morphology after intensive lipid lowering therapy: study with serial coronary CT angiography 
Although intensive lipid lowering by statins can enhance plaque stability, few data exist regarding how early statins change plaque composition and morphology in clinical setting. Therefore, to examine early changes in plaque composition and morphology by intensive lipid lowering with statins, we evaluate coronary plaques from acute coronary syndrome (ACS) before and 3 weeks after lipid lowering by coronary CT angiography. We enrolled 110 patients with suspected ACS and underwent coronary CT. We defined plaque as unstable when CT number of plaque< 50HU and remodeling index (lesion diameter/reference diameter) >1.10. Rosuvastatin (5 mg/day) or atorvastatin (20 mg/day) were introduced to reduce low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C). Then, CT was again performed by the same condition 3 weeks after lipid lowering therapy. Total 10 patients (8 men, mean age 72.0 years), in whom informed consent regarding serial CT examination was obtained, were analyzed. Among them, 4 patients who denied to have intensive lipid lowering were served as controls. In remaining 6 patients, LDL-C reduced from 129.5±26.9 mg/dl to 68.5±11.1 mg/dl after statin treatment. Under these conditions, CT number of the targeted plaque significantly increased from 16.0±15.9 to 50.8±35.0 HU (p<0.05) and remodeling index decreased from 1.22±0.11 to 1.11±0.06 (p<0.05), although these values substantially unchanged in controls. These results demonstrate that MDCT-determined plaque composition as well as volume could be changed within 3 weeks after intensive lipid lowering. This may explain acute effects of statins in treatment of acute coronary syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3371621  PMID: 22720196
Computed tomography; HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor; plaques; acute coronary syndrome
15.  The effects of lowering LDL cholesterol with statin therapy in people at low risk of vascular disease: meta-analysis of individual data from 27 randomised trials 
Lancet  2012;380(9841):581-590.
Statins reduce LDL cholesterol and prevent vascular events, but their net effects in people at low risk of vascular events remain uncertain.
This meta-analysis included individual participant data from 22 trials of statin versus control (n=134 537; mean LDL cholesterol difference 1·08 mmol/L; median follow-up 4·8 years) and five trials of more versus less statin (n=39 612; difference 0·51 mmol/L; 5·1 years). Major vascular events were major coronary events (ie, non-fatal myocardial infarction or coronary death), strokes, or coronary revascularisations. Participants were separated into five categories of baseline 5-year major vascular event risk on control therapy (no statin or low-intensity statin) (<5%, ≥5% to <10%, ≥10% to <20%, ≥20% to <30%, ≥30%); in each, the rate ratio (RR) per 1·0 mmol/L LDL cholesterol reduction was estimated.
Reduction of LDL cholesterol with a statin reduced the risk of major vascular events (RR 0·79, 95% CI 0·77–0·81, per 1·0 mmol/L reduction), largely irrespective of age, sex, baseline LDL cholesterol or previous vascular disease, and of vascular and all-cause mortality. The proportional reduction in major vascular events was at least as big in the two lowest risk categories as in the higher risk categories (RR per 1·0 mmol/L reduction from lowest to highest risk: 0·62 [99% CI 0·47–0·81], 0·69 [99% CI 0·60–0·79], 0·79 [99% CI 0·74–0·85], 0·81 [99% CI 0·77–0·86], and 0·79 [99% CI 0·74–0·84]; trend p=0·04), which reflected significant reductions in these two lowest risk categories in major coronary events (RR 0·57, 99% CI 0·36–0·89, p=0·0012, and 0·61, 99% CI 0·50–0·74, p<0·0001) and in coronary revascularisations (RR 0·52, 99% CI 0·35–0·75, and 0·63, 99% CI 0·51–0·79; both p<0·0001). For stroke, the reduction in risk in participants with 5-year risk of major vascular events lower than 10% (RR per 1·0 mmol/L LDL cholesterol reduction 0·76, 99% CI 0·61–0·95, p=0·0012) was also similar to that seen in higher risk categories (trend p=0·3). In participants without a history of vascular disease, statins reduced the risks of vascular (RR per 1·0 mmol/L LDL cholesterol reduction 0·85, 95% CI 0·77–0·95) and all-cause mortality (RR 0·91, 95% CI 0·85–0·97), and the proportional reductions were similar by baseline risk. There was no evidence that reduction of LDL cholesterol with a statin increased cancer incidence (RR per 1·0 mmol/L LDL cholesterol reduction 1·00, 95% CI 0·96–1·04), cancer mortality (RR 0·99, 95% CI 0·93–1·06), or other non-vascular mortality.
In individuals with 5-year risk of major vascular events lower than 10%, each 1 mmol/L reduction in LDL cholesterol produced an absolute reduction in major vascular events of about 11 per 1000 over 5 years. This benefit greatly exceeds any known hazards of statin therapy. Under present guidelines, such individuals would not typically be regarded as suitable for LDL-lowering statin therapy. The present report suggests, therefore, that these guidelines might need to be reconsidered.
British Heart Foundation; UK Medical Research Council; Cancer Research UK; European Community Biomed Programme; Australian National Health and Medical Research Council; National Heart Foundation, Australia.
PMCID: PMC3437972  PMID: 22607822
16.  Early changes in arterial structure and function following statin initiation: Quantification by magnetic resonance imaging 
Atherosclerosis  2008;197(2):951-958.
Effective LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) reduction improves vascular function and can bring about regression of atherosclerosis. Alterations in endothelial function can occur rapidly, but changes in atherosclerosis are generally considered to occur more slowly. Vascular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful technique for accurate non-invasive assessment of central and peripheral arteries at multiple anatomical sites. We report the changes in atherosclerosis burden and arterial function in response to open label statin treatment, in 24 statin-naïve newly diagnosed stable coronary artery disease patients. Patients underwent MRI before, and 3 and 12 months after commencing treatment. Mean LDL-C fell by 37% to 70.8 mg/dL (P < 0.01). The plaque index (normalised vessel wall area) showed reductions in the aorta (2.3%, P < 0.05) and carotid (3.1%, P < 0.05) arteries at 3 months. Early reductions in atherosclerosis of aorta and carotid observed at 3 months were significantly correlated with later change at 12 months (R2 = 0.50, P < 0.001; R2 = 0.22, P < 0.05, respectively). Improvements in aortic distensibility and brachial endothelial function that were apparent after 3 months treatment were sustained at the 12-month time point.
PMCID: PMC2292239  PMID: 17977546
Statin; Magnetic resonance imaging; Aorta; Carotid; Atherosclerosis
17.  The short-term effect of atorvastatin on carotid plaque morphology assessed by computer-assisted gray-scale densitometry: a pilot study 
Neurological research  2011;33(9):991-994.
Soft, lipid-containing carotid plaques, which appear echolucent on ultrasound imaging, have been associated with increased risk of ischemic stroke. We sought to investigate the effect of short-term treatment with atorvastatin on the change of carotid plaque echodensity. We treated 40 stroke-free and statin-naive subjects with 80 mg atorvastatin daily for 30 days. Computer assisted gray-scale densitometry (GSD) index was calculated at baseline and 30 days after treatment from the normalized plaque images. A multiple logistic regression was used to assess the effect modification of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol on plaque stabilization after adjusting for age, sex, and smoking. The average number of carotid plaques at baseline was 2 (range: 0–5; 27 subjects with carotid plaque) and did not change 30 days following atorvastatin treatment. The mean GSD index significantly increased from 73±16 (range: 1–125) at baseline to 89±15 (range: 1–137) at 30 days after treatment (P<0.05). The adjusted odds ratio for the positive GSD plaque index change (vs. no change or decreased gray-scale median (GSM) index) was 1.71 (95% confidence interval: 1.1–7.6, P<0.01). In conclusion, we observed decreased echolucency (increased echodensity) of carotid artery plaques after short-term treatment with atorvastatin.
PMCID: PMC3233227  PMID: 22081003
Carotid arteries; Carotid ultrasound; Atherosclerotic plaque; Echolucency; Statins
This secondary analysis from the Stop Atherosclerosis in Native Diabetics Study examines the effects of lowering low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) with statins alone versus statins plus ezetimibe (E) on common carotid artery intimal medial thickness (CIMT) in patients with type 2 diabetes and no prior cardiovascular event.
It is unknown whether the addition of E to statin therapy affects subclinical atherosclerosis.
Within an aggressive group (target LDL-C ≤70mg/dL; non-high-density lipoprotein [non-HDL]-C ≤<100 mg/dL; systolic blood pressure [SBP] ≤115mmHg), change in CIMT over 36mos was compared in diabetic individuals >40 yrs receiving statins plus E versus statins alone. CIMT changes in both aggressive subgroups were compared with changes in the standard subgroups (target LDL-C ≤<100mg/dL; non-HDL-C ≤ 130 mg/dL; SBP ≤130mmHg).
Mean (95%CI) LDL-C was reduced by 31 (23, 37)mg/dL and 32 (27, 38)mg/dL in the aggressive group receiving statins plus E and statins alone, respectively, compared with changes of 1 (−3, 6) mg/dL in the standard group (p<0.0001 vs both aggressive subgroups. Within the aggressive group, mean IMT at 36mos regressed from baseline similarly in the E (−.025 [−05,.003] mm) and non-E subgroups (−.012 [−.03,.008] mm) but progressed in the standard treatment arm (0.039 [0.02, 0.06] mm), intergroup p<0.0001.
Reducing LDL-C to aggressive targets resulted in similar regression of CIMT in patients who attained equivalent LDL-C reductions from a statin alone or statin plus E. CIMT increased in those achieving standard targets.
PMCID: PMC2854549  PMID: 19095139
ezetimibe; CIMT; atherosclerosis
19.  Usual Dose of Simvastatin Does Not Inhibit Plaque Progression and Lumen Loss at the Peri-Stent Reference Segments after Bare-Metal Stent Implantation: A Serial Intravascular Ultrasound Analysis 
The aim of this study was to assess the effects of a usual dose of simvastatin (20 mg/day) on plaque regression and vascular remodeling at the peri-stent reference segments after bare-metal stent implantation.
We retrospectively investigated serial intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) findings in 380 peri-stent reference segments (184 proximal and 196 distal to the stent) in 196 patients (simvastatin group, n = 132 vs. non-statin group, n = 64). Quantitative volumetric IVUS analysis was performed in 5-mm vessel segments proximal and distal to the stent.
IVUS follow-up was performed at a mean of 9.4 months after stenting (range, 5 to 19 months). No significant differences were observed in the changes in mean plaque plus media (P&M) area, mean lumen area, and mean external elastic membrane (EEM) area from post-stenting to follow-up at both proximal and distal edges between the simvastatin and non-statin group. Although lumen loss within the first 3 mm from each stent edge was primarily due to an increase in P&M area rather than a change in EEM area, and lumen loss beyond 3 mm from each stent edge was due to a combination of increased P&M area and decreased EEM area, no significant differences in changes were observed in P&M, EEM, and lumen area at every 1-mm subsegment between the simvastatin and non-statin group.
A usual dose of simvastatin does not inhibit plaque progression and lumen loss and does not affect vascular remodeling in peri-stent reference segments in patients undergoing bare-metal stent implantation.
PMCID: PMC2997963  PMID: 21179272
Atherosclerosis; Ultrasonography, interventional; Lipids; Plaque
20.  Low serum docosahexaenoic acid is associated with progression of coronary atherosclerosis in statin-treated patients with diabetes mellitus: results of the treatment with statin on atheroma regression evaluated by intravascular ultrasound with virtual histology (TRUTH) study 
Diabetes mellitus (DM) accelerates plaque progression despite the use of statin therapy. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the determinants of atheroma progression in statin-treated patients with DM.
Coronary atherosclerosis in nonculprit lesions in a vessel undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) was evaluated using virtual histology intravascular ultrasound. The study included 50 patients with DM who had been taking statin therapy for 8 months at the time of PCI.
Twenty-six patients (52%) showed atheroma progression (progressors) and the remaining 24 patients (48%) showed atheroma regression (regressors) after 8 months of follow-up. Fewer progressors than regressors received intensive lipid-lowering therapy with pitavastatin (31% vs. 50%, p = 0.17) and the frequency of insulin use was higher in progressors (31% vs. 13%, p = 0.18). However, neither of these differences reached statistical significance. Risk factor control at baseline and at the 8-month follow-up did not differ between the 2 groups except for serum levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Univariate regression analysis showed that serum EPA (r = -0.317, p = 0.03) and DHA (r = -0.353, p = 0.02) negatively correlated with atheroma progression. Multivariate stepwise regression analysis showed that low serum DHA and pravastatin use were significant independent predictors for atheroma progression during statin therapy (DHA: β = -0.414, type of statin: β = -0.287, p = 0.001).
Low serum DHA is associated with progression of coronary atherosclerosis in statin-treated patients with DM.
Trial registration
UMIN Clinical Trials Registry, UMIN ID: C000000311.
PMCID: PMC3893447  PMID: 24410834
Atheroma; Coronary atherosclerosis; Diabetes mellitus; Statin; Virtual histology intravascular ultrasound
21.  Intravascular Photoacoustic Imaging 
Intravascular photoacoustic (IVPA) imaging is a catheter-based, minimally invasive, imaging modality capable of providing high-resolution optical absorption map of the arterial wall. Integrated with intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) imaging, combined IVPA and IVUS imaging can be used to detect and characterize atherosclerotic plaques building up in the inner lining of an artery. In this paper, we present and discuss various representative applications of combined IVPA/IVUS imaging of atherosclerosis, including assessment of the composition of atherosclerotic plaques, imaging of macrophages within the plaques, and molecular imaging of biomarkers associated with formation and development of plaques. In addition, imaging of coronary artery stents using IVPA and IVUS imaging is demonstrated. Furthermore, the design of an integrated IVUS/IVPA imaging catheter needed for in vivo clinical applications is discussed.
PMCID: PMC3045110  PMID: 21359138
Atherosclerosis; contrast agent; imaging catheter; intravascular photoacoustic (IVPA) imaging; intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) imaging; molecular imaging; stent; vulnerable plaque
22.  Dual-energy computed tomography imaging to determine atherosclerotic plaque composition: A prospective study with tissue validation 
Identifying vulnerable coronary plaque with coronary CT angiography is limited by overlap between attenuation of necrotic core and fibrous plaque. Using x-rays with differing energies alters attenuation values of these components, depending on their material composition.
We sought to determine whether dual-energy CT (DECT) improves plaque component discrimination compared with single-energy CT (SECT).
Twenty patients underwent DECT and virtual histology intravascular ultrasound (VH-IVUS). Attenuation changes at 100 and 140 kV for each plaque component were defined, using 1088 plaque areas co-registered with VH-IVUS. Hounsfield unit thresholds that best detected necrotic core were derived for SECT (conventional attenuation values) and for DECT (using dual-energy indices, defined as difference in Hounsfield unit values at the 2 voltages/their sum). Sensitivity of SECT and DECT to detect plaque components was determined in 77 segments from 7 postmortem coronary arteries. Finally, we examined 60 plaques in vivo to determine feasibility and sensitivity of clinical DECT to detect VH-IVUS–defined necrotic core.
In contrast to conventional SECT, mean dual-energy indices of necrotic core and fibrous tissue were significantly different with minimal overlap of ranges (necrotic core, 0.007 [95% CI, –0.001 to 0.016]; fibrous tissue, 0.028 [95% CI, 0.016–0.050]; P < .0001). DECT increased diagnostic accuracy to detect necrotic core in postmortem arteries (sensitivity, 64%; specificity, 98%) compared with SECT (sensitivity, 50%; specificity, 94%). DECT sensitivity to detect necrotic core was lower when analyzed in vivo, although still better than SECT (45% vs 39%).
DECT improves the differentiation of necrotic core and fibrous plaque in ex vivo postmortem arteries. However, much of this improvement is lost when translated to in vivo imaging because of a reduction in image quality.
PMCID: PMC4070076  PMID: 24939072
Dual-energy computed tomography; Virtual histology intravascular ultrasound; Necrotic core; Atherosclerosis
23.  Assessment of Non-Calcified Coronary Plaques Using 64-Slice Computed Tomography: Comparison With Intravascular Ultrasound 
Korean Circulation Journal  2009;39(3):95-99.
Background and Objectives
Non-invasive detection and characterization of plaque composition may constitute an important step in risk stratification and monitoring of the progression of coronary atherosclerosis. Multislice computed tomography (MSCT) allows for accurate, non-invasive detection and characterization of atherosclerotic plaques, as well as determination of coronary artery stenosis. The aim of this study was to determine the usefulness of MSCT for characterizing non-calcified coronary plaques previously classified by intravascular ultrasound (IVUS).
Subjects and Methods
Seventy-one plaques were evaluated in 42 patients undergoing MSCT and IVUS. Coronary plaques were classified as hypoechoic or hyperechoic based on IVUS echogenicity. On MSCT, CT attenuation was measured using circular regions of interest (ROI) and represented as Hounsfield units (HU).
MSCT attenuation in hypoechoic plaques was significantly lower than it was in hyperechoic plaques (52.9±24.6 HU vs. 98.6±34.9 HU, respectively, p<0.001). When comparing CT attenuation between hypoechoic and hyperechoic plaques, 60.2 HU was the cut-off value for differentiating between the two, with a 90.7% sensitivity and a 78.6% specificity.
MSCT might be a useful tool for non-invasively evaluating the characteristics of coronary artery plaques.
PMCID: PMC2771805  PMID: 19949594
Atherosclerosis; Coronary arteries; X-ray computed tomography
24.  Correlation between Plaque Composition as assessed by Virtual Histology and C-reactive Protein 
Previous studies have shown that coronary plaque composition plays a pivotal role in plaque instability, and imaging modalities and serum biomarkers have been investigated to identify vulnerable plaque. Virtual histology IVUS (VH-IVUS) characterizes plaque components as calcified, fibrotic, fibrofatty, or necrotic core. C-reactive protein (hsCRP) is an independent risk factor and a powerful predictor of future coronary events. However, a relationship between inflammatory response indicated by CRP and plaque characteristics in ACS patients remains not well established.
To determine, by using VH-IVUS, the relation between coronary plaque components and plasma high-sensitivity CRP levels in patients with acute coronary syndromes (ACS).
52 patients with ACS were enrolled in this prospective study. Electrocardiographically-gated VH-IVUS were performed in the culprit lesion before PCI. Blood sample was drawn from all patients before the procedure and after 24 hours, and hs-CRP levels were determined.
Mean age was 55.3±4.9 years, 76.9% were men and 30.9% had diabetes. Mean MLA was 3.9±1.3 mm2, and plaque burden was 69±11.3%, as assessed by IVUS. VH-IVUS analysis at the minimum luminal site identified plaque components: fibrotic (59.6±15.8%), fibrofatty (7.6±8.2%), dense calcium (12.1±9.2%) and necrotic core (20.7±12.7%). Plasma hs-CRP (mean 16.02±18.07 mg/L) did not correlate with necrotic core (r=-0.089, p = 0.53) and other plaque components.
In this prospective study with patients with ACS, the predominant components of the culprit plaque were fibrotic and necrotic core. Serum hs C-reactive protein levels did not correlate with plaque composition.
PMCID: PMC3998173  PMID: 23752339
Acute Coronary Syndrome; Plaque, Atherosclerosis; C-Reactive Protein; Histological Techniques; Diagnostic Imaging
25.  Accuracy of dual-source CT in the characterisation of non-calcified plaque: use of a colour-coded analysis compared with virtual histology intravascular ultrasound 
The British Journal of Radiology  2009;82(982):805-812.
Non-invasive assessment of plaque volume and composition is important for risk stratification and long-term studies of plaque stabilisation. Our aim was to evaluate dual-source computed tomography (DSCT) and colour-coded analysis in the quantification and classification of coronary atheroma. DSCT and virtual histology intravascular ultrasound (IVUS-VH) were prospectively performed in 14 patients. 22 lesions were compared in terms of plaque volume, maximal per cent vessel stenosis and percentages of fatty, fibrous or calcified components. Plaque characterisation was performed with software that automatically segments luminal or outer vessel boundaries and uses CT attenuation for a colour-coded plaque analysis. Good correlation was found for per cent vessel stenosis in DSCT (53 ± 13%) and IVUS (51 ± 14%; r2 = 0.70). Mean volumes for entire plaque and non-calcified atheroma were 68.5 ± 33 mm3 and 56.7 ± 30 mm3, respectively, in DSCT and 60.8 ± 29 mm3 and 55.8 ± 26 mm3, respectively, in IVUS. Mean percentages of fatty, fibrous or calcified components were 28.2 ± 6%, 53.2 ± 9% and 18.7 ± 13%, respectively, in DSCT and 29.9 ± 5%, 55.3 ± 12% and 14.4 ± 9%, respectively, in IVUS-VH. Significant overestimation was present for the entire plaque and the volume of calcified plaque (p = 0.03; p = 0.0004). Although good correlation with IVUS was obtained for the entire plaque (r2 = 0.76) and non-calcified plaque volume (r2 = 0.84), correlation proved very poor and insignificant for percentage plaque composition. Interclass correlation coefficients for non-calcified plaque volume and percentages of fatty, fibrous or calcified components were 0.99, 0.99, 0.95 and 0.98, respectively, and intraclass coefficients were 0.98, 0.93, 0.98 and 0.99, respectively. We found that using Hounsfield unit-based analysis, DSCT allows for accurate quantification of non-calcified plaque. Although percentage plaque composition proves highly reproducible, it is not correlated with IVUS-VH.
PMCID: PMC3292046  PMID: 19332517

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