Accelerated subclinical coronary atherosclerosis in patients with familial hypercholesterolemia

Lisan A Neefjes, Gert-Jan R Ten Kate, Rossi Alexia, Koen Nieman, Annette J Galema-Boers, Janneke G Langendonk, Annick C Weustink, Nico R Mollet, Eric J Sijbrands, Gabriel P Krestin, Pim J de Feyter
Atherosclerosis 2011, 219 (2): 721-7

OBJECTIVES: We determined the extent, severity, distribution and type of coronary plaques in cardiac asymptomatic patients with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) using computed tomography (CT).

BACKGROUND: FH patients have accelerated progression of coronary artery disease (CAD) with earlier major adverse cardiac events. Non-invasive CT coronary angiography (CTCA) allows assessing the coronary plaque burden in asymptomatic patients with FH.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A total of 140 asymptomatic statin treated FH patients (90 men; mean age 52 ± 8 years) underwent CT calcium scoring (Agatston) and CTCA using a Dual Source CT scanner with a clinical follow-up of 29 ± 8 months. The extent, severity (obstructive or non-obstructive plaque based on >50% or <50% lumen diameter reduction), distribution and type (calcified, non-calcified, or mixed) of coronary plaque were evaluated.

RESULTS: The calcium score was 0 in 28 (21%) of the patients. In 16% of the patients there was no CT-evidence of any CAD while 24% had obstructive disease. In total 775 plaques were detected with CT coronary angiography, of which 11% were obstructive. Fifty four percent of all plaques were calcified, 25% non-calcified and 21% mixed. The CAD extent was related to gender, treated HDL-cholesterol and treated LDL-cholesterol levels. There was a low incidence of cardiac events and no cardiac death occurred during follow-up.

CONCLUSION: Development of CAD is accelerated in intensively treated male and female FH patients. The extent of CAD is related to gender and cholesterol levels and ranges from absence of plaque in one out of 6 patients to extensive CAD with plaque causing >50% lumen obstruction in almost a quarter of patients with FH.

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