Plaque Rupture and Thrombosis Are Reduced by Lowering Cholesterol Levels and Crystallization With Ezetimibe and Are Correlated With Fluorodeoxyglucose Positron Emission Tomography
Objective—This study evaluated effects of lipid lowering with ezetimibe on plaque burden and associated cholesterol crystallization and inflammation in a rabbit model of plaque disruption and thrombosis.
Methods and Results—Atherosclerotic rabbits (Group I, n=10 without; Group II, n=12 with ezetimibe, 1 mg/kg per day) were pharmacologically triggered for plaque disruption. Fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography, RAM 11 macrophage staining, and serum inflammatory markers detected arterial inflammation. Serum and aortic wall cholesterol levels were measured, and thrombus area was planimetered. Cholesterol crystal density on aortic surface was scored (0 to +3) by scanning electron microscopy. Serum and aortic wall cholesterol, plaque area, and thrombosis area were significantly lower in Group II versus Group I (83.4±106.4 versus 608±386 mg/dL, P=0.002; 3.12±1.40 versus 9.39±5.60 mg/g, P=0.003; 10.84±1.6 versus 17.48±1.8 mm2, P<0.001; and 0.05±0.15 versus 0.72±0.58 mm2, P=0.01, respectively). There were significant correlations between crystal density and plaque area (r=0.75, P<0.003) and between crystal density and RAM 11 (r=0.82, P<0.001). Scanning electron microscopy demonstrated that there were fewer crystals in Group II versus Group I (+1.2±0.61 versus +2.4±0.63, P<0.001) and less inflammation detected by fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography and RAM 11 (P<0.004 and P<0.04, respectively).
Conclusion—Lowering cholesterol levels with ezetimibe reduced plaque burden, crystallization, and inflammation, preventing plaque disruption and thrombosis.
- Received August 19, 2010.
- Accepted May 31, 2011.
- © 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.