Association of traditional cardiovascular risk factors with coronary plaque sub-types assessed by 64-slice computed tomography angiography in a large cohort of asymptomatic subjects

Juan J. Rivera, Khurram Nasir, Pedro R. Cox, Eue Keun Choi, Yeonyee Yoon, Iksung Cho, Eun Ju Chun, Sang Il Choi, Roger S. Blumenthal, Hyuk Jae Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: Although prior studies have shown that traditional cardiovascular (CV) risk factors are associated with the burden of coronary atherosclerosis, less is known about the relationship of risk factors with coronary plaque sub-types. Coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA) allows an assessment of both, total disease burden and plaque characteristics. In this study, we investigate the relationship between traditional CV risk factors and the presence and extent of coronary plaque sub-types in a large group of asymptomatic individuals. Methods: The study population consisted of 1015 asymptomatic Korean subjects (53 ± 10 years; 64% were males) free of known CV disease who underwent 64-slice CCTA as part of a health screening evaluation. We analyzed plaque characteristics on a per-segment basis according to the modified American Heart Association classification. Plaques in which calcified tissue occupied more than 50% of the plaque area were classified as calcified (CAP), <50% calcified area as mixed (MCAP), and plaques without any calcium as non-calcified (NCAP). Results: A total of 215 (21%) subjects had coronary plaque while 800 (79%) had no identifiable disease. Multivariate regression analysis demonstrated that increased age (per decade) and gender are the strongest predictors for the presence of any coronary plaque or the presence of at least one segment of CAP and MCAP (any plaque-age: OR 2.89; 95% CI 2.34, 3.56; male gender: OR 5.21; 95% CI 3.20, 8.49; CAP-age: OR 2.75; 95% CI 2.12, 3.58; male gender: 4.78; 95% CI 2.48, 9.23; MCAP-age: OR 2.62; 95% CI 2.02, 3.39; male gender: OR 4.15; 95% CI 2.17, 7.94). The strongest predictors for the presence of any NCAP were gender (OR 3.56; 95% CI 1.96-6.55) and diabetes mellitus (OR 2.87; 95% CI 1.63-5.08). When looking at the multivariate association between the presence of ≥2 coronary segments with a plaque sub-type and CV risk factors, male gender was the strongest predictor for CAP (OR 7.31; 95% CI 2.12, 25.20) and MCAP (OR 5.54; 95% CI 1.84, 16.68). Alternatively, smoking was the strongest predictor for the presence of ≥2 coronary segments with NCAP (OR 4.86; 95% CI 1.68, 14.07). Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) was only a predictor for the presence and extent of mixed coronary plaque. Conclusion: Age and gender are overall the strongest predictors of atherosclerosis as assessed by CCTA in this large asymptomatic Korean population and these two risk factors are not particularly associated with a specific coronary plaque sub-type. Smoking is a strong predictor of NCAP, which has been suggested by previous reports as a more vulnerable lesion. Whether a specific plaque sub-type is associated with a worse prognosis is yet to be determined by future prospective studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-457
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2009



  • Asymptomatic individuals
  • Coronary computed tomography angiography
  • Coronary plaque
  • Plaque morphology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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