Incidence, factors, and clinical significance of cholesterol crystals in coronary plaque: An optical coherence tomography study


      • The incidence of cholesterol crystals in culprit lesions requiring PCI was 29%.
      • Lower EPA/AA was associated with the presence of cholesterol crystals.
      • The presence of cholesterol crystals was associated with worse clinical outcomes.


      Background and aims

      Intraplaque cholesterol crystal (CC) is recognized as a component of vulnerable plaques. However, the clinical characteristics of patients with CC and the impact of CC on clinical events remain unknown.


      A total of 340 consecutive patients who underwent optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging of culprit lesions were included in the study. CC was defined as a thin linear structure with high reflectivity and low signal attenuation on OCT images. The incidence of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) at 1-year was compared between patients with CC (CC group) and those without CC (non-CC group). MACE included cardiac death, non-fatal myocardial infarction, target vessel revascularization (TVR), and non-TVR (NTVR).


      CC was observed in 29% (n = 98) of the patients. There was no significant difference in baseline clinical characteristics between the CC and non-CC groups, other than in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)/arachidonic acid (AA) ratio (0.39 ± 0.29 vs. 0.47 ± 0.33, p = 0.047) and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels (6.51 ± 0.97 vs. 6.25 ± 0.87%, p = 0.016). The incidence of MACE and NTVR at 1-year was significantly higher in the CC group than in the non-CC group (15.3 vs. 7.9%, P = 0.038; 8.1 vs. 2.5%, p = 0.017). The presence of CC was significantly associated with a higher rate of 1-year MACE (odds ratio 4.78, confidential interval 2.02–10.10, p < 0.001).


      Patients with CC in the culprit lesion had higher HbA1c and lower EPA/AA than patients without CC. The 1-year clinical outcomes in patients with CC in the culprit lesion were worse than in those without CC.

      Graphical abstract


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