Distinct morphological features of ruptured culprit plaque for acute coronary events compared to those with silent rupture and thin-cap fibroatheroma: a combined optical coherence tomography and intravascular ultrasound study

Jinwei Tian, Xuefeng Ren, Rocco Vergallo, Lei Xing, Huai Yu, Haibo Jia, Tsunenari Soeda, Iris McNulty, Sining Hu, Hang Lee, Bo Yu, Ik-Kyung Jang
Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2014 June 3, 63 (21): 2209-16

OBJECTIVES: The study sought to identify specific morphological characteristics of ruptured culprit plaques (RCP) responsible for acute events, and compare them with ruptured nonculprit plaques (RNCP) and nonruptured thin-cap fibroatheroma (TCFA) in patients presenting with acute coronary syndromes (ACS).

BACKGROUND: Nonruptured TCFA and multiple ruptured plaques are detected in the same patients with ACS. It remains unknown whether certain morphological characteristics determine rupture of TCFA and subsequently result in ACS.

METHODS: We analyzed 126 plaques (RCP = 49, RNCP = 19, TCFA = 58) from 82 ACS patients using optical coherence tomography (OCT) and intravascular ultrasound (IVUS). Fibrous cap thickness was determined by OCT. Plaque burden and lumen area were measured with IVUS.

RESULTS: Fibrous cap was thinner in RCP (43 ± 11 μm) and RNCP (41 ± 10 μm) than in TCFA (56 ± 9 μm, p < 0.001 and p < 0.001, respectively). Plaque burden was greater in RCP (82 ± 7.2%), compared with RNCP (64 ± 7.2%, p < 0.001) and TCFA (62 ± 12.5%, p < 0.001). Lumen area was smaller in RCP (2.1 ± 0.9 mm(2)), compared with RNCP (4.6 ± 2.3 mm(2), p = 0.001) and TCFA (5.1 ± 2.7 mm(2), p < 0.001). The fibrous cap thickness <52 μm had good performance in discriminating ruptured plaque from TCFA (area under the curve [AUC] = 0.857, p < 0.001), and plaque burden >76% and lumen area <2.6 mm(2) had good performance in discriminating RCP from RNCP and TCFA (AUC = 0.923, p < 0.001 and AUC = 0.881, p < 0.001, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: Fibrous cap thickness is a critical morphological discriminator between ruptured plaques and nonruptured TCFA, while plaque burden and lumen area appear to be important morphological features of RCP. These findings suggest that plaque rupture is determined by fibrous cap thickness, and a combination of large plaque burden and luminal narrowing result in ACS.

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