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Grimm, Jochen M.; Nikolaou, Konstantin; Schindler, Andreas; Hettich, Reinhard; Heigl, Franz; Cyran, Clemens C.; Schwarz, Florian; Klingel, Reinhard; Karpinska, Anna; Yuan, Chun; Dichgans, Martin; Reiser, Maximilian F.; Saam, Tobias (2012): Characteristics of carotid atherosclerotic plaques of chronic lipid apheresis patients as assessed by In Vivo High-Resolution CMR - a comparative analysis. In: Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance 14:80


Background: Components of carotid atherosclerotic plaques can reliably be identified and quantified using high resolution in vivo 3-Tesla CMR. It is suspected that lipid apheresis therapy in addition to lowering serum lipid levels also has an influence on development and progression of atherosclerotic plaques. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the influence of chronic lipid apheresis (LA) on the composition of atherosclerotic carotid plaques. Methods: 32 arteries of 16 patients during chronic LA-therapy with carotid plaques and stenosis of 1-80% were matched according to degree of stenosis with 32 patients, who had recently suffered an ischemic stroke. Of these patients only the asymptomatic carotid artery was analyzed. All patients underwent black-blood 3 T CMR of the carotids using parallel imaging and dedicated surface coils. Cardiovascular risk factors were recorded. Morphology and composition of carotid plaques were evaluated. For statistical evaluation Fisher's Exact and unpaired t-test were used. A p-value <0.05 was considered statistically significant. Results: Patients in the LA-group were younger (63.5 vs. 73.9. years, <0.05), had a higher prevalence of hypercholesterolemia and of established coronary heart disease in patients and in first-degree relatives (p<0.05, respectively). LA-patients had smaller maximum wall areas (49.7 vs. 59.6mm(2), <0.05), showed lower prevalence of lipid cores (28.1% vs. 56.3%, <0.05) and the lipid content was smaller than in the control group (5.0 vs. 11.6%, <0.05). Minimum lumen areas and maximum total vessel areas did not differ significantly between both groups. Conclusion: Results of this study suggest that, despite a severer risk profile for cardiovascular complications in LA-patients, chronic LA is associated with significantly lower lipid content in carotid plaques compared to plaques of patients without LA with similar degrees of stenosis, which is characteristic of clinically stable plaques.