It has been postulated that atherosclerotic plaque deposition is spatially related to regions of low shear in non-branching vessel segments. Intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) allows precise spatial orientation of coronary artery plaque formation in humans. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that coronary plaques have a higher prevalence on the myocardial side in regions that encounter low surface shear stress. IVUS allows the determination of the inner versus the outer curve of the vessel based on vascular and perivascular landmarks. We studied 30 consecutive patients pre-intervention using IVUS and measured vessel area, lumen area and plaque area (vessel-lumen area) during a motorized pullback at 1 mm intervals. Vessel segments near a side branch (within two times the diameter of the vessel) were excluded from analysis because of flow disturbances. All plaques were classified as concentric or eccentric and all eccentric plaques were further divided with respect to their spatial orientation in the vessel into quadrants: myocardial (inner curve, lower shear stress), epicardial (outer curve, higher shear stress) and lateral (two quadrants intermediate). A total of 613 cross-sections were analyzed in 14 left anterior descending, six left circumflex, and ten right coronary arteries. Plaque distribution was found to be concentric in 321 (52.4%) and eccentric in 292 (47.6%) cross sections. Of all eccentric plaques, 184 cross sections were oriented toward the myocardial side (62.6%) compared to only 54 toward the epicardial side (17.3%) and 54 in the 2 lateral quadrants (19.5%, P<0.001). No difference in plaque area (6.75+/-2.70 vs. 6.76+/-2.60 mm(2)), vessel area (15.28+/-4.73 vs. 15.35+/-4.40 mm(2)), or plaque thickness (1.26+/-0.37 vs. 1.25+/-0.43 mm) was noted between myocardial or epicardial plaques. These results suggest that atherosclerotic plaques develop more frequently on the myocardial side of the vessel wall, which may relate to lower shear stress. However, plaque size is similar on the epicardial and myocardial side.
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View details for PubMedID 10996357