Atherosclerosis is the primary cause of coronary artery disease (CAD). There is increasing recognition that lesion composition rather than size determines the acute complications of atherosclerotic disease. Low serum adiponectin levels were reported to be associated with coronary artery disease and future incidence of acute coronary syndrome (ACS). The impact of adiponectin on lesion composition still remains to be determined.
We measured serum adiponectin levels in 303 patients with stable typical or atypical chest pain, who underwent dual-source multi-slice CT-angiography to exclude coronary artery stenosis. Atherosclerotic plaques were classified as calcified, mixed or non-calcified. In bivariate analysis adiponectin levels were inversely correlated with total coronary plaque burden (r = −0.21, p = 0.0004), mixed (r = −0.20, p = 0.0007) and non-calcified plaques (r = −0.18, p = 0.003). No correlation was seen with calcified plaques (r = −0.05, p = 0.39). In a fully adjusted multivariate model adiponectin levels remained predictive of total plaque burden (estimate: −0.036, 95%CI: −0.052 to −0.020, p<0.0001), mixed (estimate: −0.087, 95%CI: −0.132 to −0.042, p = 0.0001) and non-calcified plaques (estimate: −0.076, 95%CI: −0.115 to −0.038, p = 0.0001). Adiponectin levels were not associated with calcified plaques (estimate: −0.021, 95% CI: −0.043 to −0.001, p = 0.06). Since the majority of coronary plaques was calcified, adiponectin levels account for only 3% of the variability in total plaque number. In contrast, adiponectin accounts for approximately 20% of the variability in mixed and non-calcified plaque burden.
Adiponectin levels predict mixed and non-calcified coronary atherosclerotic plaque burden. Low adiponectin levels may contribute to coronary plaque vulnerability and may thus play a role in the pathophysiology of ACS.