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It has been believed that most acute coronary events result from the rupture of mildly stenotic plaques, based on studies in which angiographic information was available from many months to years before the event. However, serial studies in which angiographic data were available from the past as also within 1 to 3 months of myocardial infarction have clarified that nonobstructive lesions progressively enlarged relatively rapidly before the acute event occurred. Noninvasive computed tomography angiography imaging data have confirmed that lesions that did not progress voluminously over time rarely led to events, regardless of the extent of luminal stenosis or baseline high-risk plaque morphology. Therefore, plaque progression could be proposed as a necessary step between early, uncomplicated atherosclerosis and plaque rupture. On the other hand, it has been convincingly demonstrated that intensive lipid-lowering therapy (to a low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level of <70 mg/dl) halts plaque progression. Given the current ability to noninvasively detect the presence of early atherosclerosis, the importance of plaque progression in the pathogenesis of myocardial infarction, and the efficacy of maximum lipid-lowering therapy, it has been suggested that plaque progression is a modifiable step in the evolution of atherosclerotic plaque. A personalized approach based on the detection of early atherosclerosis can trigger the necessary treatment to prevent plaque progression and hence plaque instability. Therefore, this approach can redefine the traditional paradigm of primary and secondary prevention based on population-derived risk estimates and can potentially improve long-term outcomes.

Original publication




Journal article


J am coll cardiol

Publication Date





1608 - 1617


CT angiography, acute coronary syndrome, cardiovascular health, primary prevention, secondary prevention, statin therapy, Acute Coronary Syndrome, Acute Disease, Atherosclerosis, Disease Progression, Humans, Plaque, Atherosclerotic