Contemporary invasive imaging modalities that identify and risk-stratify coronary plaques at risk of rupture

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Abstract

Atherosclerotic plaque rupture is responsible for the majority of myocardial infarctions, with ruptured plaques exhibiting specific morphological features, including large lipid cores, thinner overlying fibrous caps and micro-calcifications. Contemporary imaging modalities are increasingly able to characterize plaques, potentially leading to the identification of precursor lesions that are at high risk of rupture. Observational studies using invasive imaging consistently find that plaques responsible for an acute coronary event display these high-risk morphological features, and recent prospective imaging studies have now established links between baseline plaque characteristics and future cardiovascular events. Despite these promising advances, subsequent overall event rates remain too low for clinical utility. Novel technologies are now required to refine and improve our ability to identify and risk-stratify lesions at risk of rupture, if plaque-based risk evaluation is ever to become reality.

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