This study sought to determine the frequency of large lipid-rich plaques (LRP) in the coronary arteries of individuals with high coronary artery calcium scores (CACS) and to determine whether the CACS correlates with coronary lipid burden.Methods and Results—
Combined near-infrared spectroscopy and intravascular ultrasound was performed in 57 vessels in 20 asymptomatic individuals (90% on statins) with no prior history of coronary artery disease who had a screening CACS ≥300 Agatston units. Among 268 10-mm coronary segments, near-infrared spectroscopy images were analyzed for LRP, defined as a bright yellow block on the near-infrared spectroscopy block chemogram. Lipid burden was assessed as the lipid core burden index (LCBI), and large LRP were defined as a maximum LCBI in 4 mm ≥400. Vessel plaque volume was measured by quantitative intravascular ultrasound. Vessel-level CACS significantly correlated with plaque volume by intravascular ultrasound (r=0.69; P<0.0001) but not with LCBI by near-infrared spectroscopy (r=0.24; P=0.07). Despite a high CACS, no LRP was detected in 8 (40.0%) subjects. Large LRP having a maximum LCBI in 4 mm ≥400 were infrequent, found in only 5 (25.0%) of 20 subjects and in only 5 (1.9%) of 268 10-mm coronary segments analyzed.Conclusions—
Among individuals with a CACS ≥300 Agatston units mostly on statins, CACS correlated with total plaque volume but not LCBI. This observation may have implications on coronary risk among individuals with a high CACS considering that it is coronary LRP, rather than calcification, that underlies the majority of acute coronary events.