An increasing number of authors employing intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) and virtual histology (VH-IVUS) have investigated the effect of statin use on plaque volume (PV) and plaque composition. However, inconsistent results have been reported. Therefore, we conducted a meta-analysis to determine the appropriate regimen of statins to effectively stabilize vulnerable coronary plaques.
Online electronic databases were carefully searched for all relevant studies. We compared mean values of PV and plaque composition between baseline and follow-up in patients receiving statin therapy. We pooled treatment effects and calculated mean differences (MD) with the 95% confidence interval (CI) using a random-effects model. By stratified analyses, we explored the influence of clinical presentation, dose and duration of statin treatment, and low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) levels on the effects of statins.
Seventeen studies involving 2,171 patients were analyzed. Statin therapy significantly decreased PV (−5.3 mm3; 95% CI: –3.3 mm3 to −7.2 mm3; P < 0.001), without heterogeneity. When considering the dose and duration of statins used, only subgroups employing a high dose and long duration demonstrated a significant reduction in PV (p < 0.001). A significant decrease in PV was noted if achieved LDL-C levels were <100 mg/dL (p < 0.001). Statin treatment could induce a twofold decrease in PV in patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS) compared with that observed in patients with stable angina pectoris (SAP). A regressive trend was seen for necrotic core volume (MD: –2.1 mm3; 95% CI: –4.7 mm3 to 0.5 mm3, P = 0.11). However, statin use did not induce a significant change for fibrotic, fibro-fatty, or dense calcium compositions.
Our meta-analysis demonstrated that statin therapy (especially that involving a high dose and long duration and achieving <100 mg/dL LDL-C levels) can significantly decrease PV in patients with SAP or ACS. These data suggested that statins can be used to reduce the atheroma burden for secondary prevention by appropriately selecting the statin regimen. No significant change in plaque composition was seen after statin therapy.