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      Mechanisms of Plaque Formation and Rupture

      1 , 1 , 1 , 1

      Circulation Research

      Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer Health)

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          Abstract

          Atherosclerosis causes clinical disease through luminal narrowing or by precipitating thrombi that obstruct blood flow to the heart (coronary heart disease), brain (ischemic stroke), or lower extremities (peripheral vascular disease). The most common of these manifestations is coronary heart disease, including stable angina pectoris and the acute coronary syndromes. Atherosclerosis is a lipoprotein-driven disease that leads to plaque formation at specific sites of the arterial tree through intimal inflammation, necrosis, fibrosis, and calcification. After decades of indolent progression, such plaques may suddenly cause life-threatening coronary thrombosis presenting as an acute coronary syndrome. Most often, the culprit morphology is plaque rupture with exposure of highly thrombogenic, red cell-rich necrotic core material. The permissive structural requirement for this to occur is an extremely thin fibrous cap, and thus, ruptures occur mainly among lesions defined as thin-cap fibroatheromas. Also common are thrombi forming on lesions without rupture (plaque erosion), most often on pathological intimal thickening or fibroatheromas. However, the mechanisms involved in plaque erosion remain largely unknown, although coronary spasm is suspected. The calcified nodule has been suggested as a rare cause of coronary thrombosis in highly calcified and tortious arteries in older individuals. To characterize the severity and prognosis of plaques, several terms are used. Plaque burden denotes the extent of disease, whereas plaque activity is an ambiguous term, which may refer to one of several processes that characterize progression. Plaque vulnerability describes the short-term risk of precipitating symptomatic thrombosis. In this review, we discuss mechanisms of atherosclerotic plaque initiation and progression; how plaques suddenly precipitate life-threatening thrombi; and the concepts of plaque burden, activity, and vulnerability. © 2014 American Heart Association, Inc.

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          Most cited references 86

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          A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990–2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010

          The Lancet, 380(9859), 2224-2260
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            From vulnerable plaque to vulnerable patient: a call for new definitions and risk assessment strategies: Part I.

            Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease results in >19 million deaths annually, and coronary heart disease accounts for the majority of this toll. Despite major advances in treatment of coronary heart disease patients, a large number of victims of the disease who are apparently healthy die suddenly without prior symptoms. Available screening and diagnostic methods are insufficient to identify the victims before the event occurs. The recognition of the role of the vulnerable plaque has opened new avenues of opportunity in the field of cardiovascular medicine. This consensus document concludes the following. (1) Rupture-prone plaques are not the only vulnerable plaques. All types of atherosclerotic plaques with high likelihood of thrombotic complications and rapid progression should be considered as vulnerable plaques. We propose a classification for clinical as well as pathological evaluation of vulnerable plaques. (2) Vulnerable plaques are not the only culprit factors for the development of acute coronary syndromes, myocardial infarction, and sudden cardiac death. Vulnerable blood (prone to thrombosis) and vulnerable myocardium (prone to fatal arrhythmia) play an important role in the outcome. Therefore, the term "vulnerable patient" may be more appropriate and is proposed now for the identification of subjects with high likelihood of developing cardiac events in the near future. (3) A quantitative method for cumulative risk assessment of vulnerable patients needs to be developed that may include variables based on plaque, blood, and myocardial vulnerability. In Part I of this consensus document, we cover the new definition of vulnerable plaque and its relationship with vulnerable patients. Part II of this consensus document focuses on vulnerable blood and vulnerable myocardium and provide an outline of overall risk assessment of vulnerable patients. Parts I and II are meant to provide a general consensus and overviews the new field of vulnerable patient. Recently developed assays (eg, C-reactive protein), imaging techniques (eg, CT and MRI), noninvasive electrophysiological tests (for vulnerable myocardium), and emerging catheters (to localize and characterize vulnerable plaque) in combination with future genomic and proteomic techniques will guide us in the search for vulnerable patients. It will also lead to the development and deployment of new therapies and ultimately to reduce the incidence of acute coronary syndromes and sudden cardiac death. We encourage healthcare policy makers to promote translational research for screening and treatment of vulnerable patients.
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              Atherosclerotic plaque progression and vulnerability to rupture: angiogenesis as a source of intraplaque hemorrhage.

              Observational studies of necrotic core progression identify intraplaque hemorrhage as a critical factor in atherosclerotic plaque growth and destabilization. The rapid accumulation of erythrocyte membranes causes an abrupt change in plaque substrate characterized by increased free cholesterol within the lipid core and excessive macrophage infiltration. Neoangiogenesis is associated closely with plaque progression, and microvascular incompetence is a likely source of intraplaque hemorrhage. Intimal neovascularization is predominantly thought to arise from the adventitia, where there are a plethora of pre-existing vasa vasorum. In lesions that have early necrotic cores, the majority of vessels invading from the adventitia occur at specific sites of medial wall disruption. A breech in the medial wall likely facilitates the rapid in-growth of microvessels from the adventitia, and exposure to an atherosclerotic environment stimulates abnormal vascular development characterized by disorganized branching and immature endothelial tubes with "leaky" imperfect linings. This network of immature blood vessels is a viable source of intraplaque hemorrhage providing erythrocyte-derived phospholipids and free cholesterol. The rapid change in plaque substrate caused by the excessive accumulation of erythrocytes may promote the transition from a stable to an unstable lesion. This review discusses the potential role of intraplaque vasa vasorum in lesion instability as it relates to plaque rupture.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Circulation Research
                Circ Res
                Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer Health)
                0009-7330
                1524-4571
                June 06 2014
                June 06 2014
                : 114
                : 12
                : 1852-1866
                Affiliations
                [1 ]From the Department of Clinical Medicine (J.F.B., E.F.), Aarhus University, and Department of Cardiology (J.F.B., E.F.), Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark; and CVPath Institute Inc, Gaithersburg, MD (F.O., R.V.).
                Article
                10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.114.302721
                24902970
                © 2014

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