Coronary CTA plaque volume severity stages according to invasive coronary angiography and FFR

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of cardiovascular computed tomography




BACKGROUND: Atherosclerotic plaque characterization by coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA) enables quantification of coronary artery disease (CAD) burden and type, which has been demonstrated as the strongest discriminant of future risk of major adverse cardiac events (MACE). To date, there are no clinically useful thresholds to assist with understanding a patient's disease burden and guide diagnosis and management, as there exists with coronary artery calcium (CAC) scoring. The purpose of this manuscript is to establish clinically relevant plaque stages and thresholds based on evidence from invasive angiographic stenosis (ICA) and fractional flow reserve (FFR) data. METHODS: 303 patients underwent CCTA prior to ICA and FFR for an AHA/ACC clinical indication. Quantitative computed tomography (QCT) was performed for total plaque volume (TPV, mm) and percent atheroma volume (PAV, %). We segmented atherosclerosis by composition for low-density non-calcified plaque (LD-NCP), non-calcified plaque (NCP), and calcified plaque (CP). ICAs were evaluated by quantitative coronary angiography (QCA) for all coronary segments for % diameter stenosis. The relationship of atherosclerotic plaque burden and composition by QCT to ICA stenosis extent and severity by QCA and presence of ischemia by FFR was assessed to develop 4 distinct disease stages. RESULTS: The mean age of the patients was 64.4 ​± ​10.2 years; 71% male. At the 50% QCA stenosis threshold, QCT revealed a mean PAV of 9.7 (±8.2)% and TPV of 436 (±444.9)mm for those with non-obstructive CAD; PAV of 11.7 (±8.0)% and TPV of 549.3 (±408.3) mm for 1 vessel disease (1VD), PAV of 17.8 (±9.8)% and TPV of 838.9 (±550.7) mm for 2VD, and PAV of 19.2 (±8.2)% and TPV of 799.9 (±357.4) mm for 3VD/left main disease (LMD). Non-ischemic patients (FFR >0.8) had a mean PAV of 9.2 (±7.3) % and TPV of 422.9 (±387.9 ​mm) while patients with at least one vessel ischemia (FFR ≤0.8) had a PAV of 15.2 (±9.5)% and TPV of 694.6 (±485.1). Definition of plaque stage thresholds of 0, 250, 750 ​mm and 0, 5, and 15% PAV resulted in 4 clinically distinct stages in which patients with no, nonobstructive, single VD and multi-vessel disease were optimally distributed. CONCLUSION: Atherosclerotic plaque burden by QCT is related to stenosis severity and extent as well as ischemia. We propose staging of CAD atherosclerotic plaque burden using the following definitions: Stage 0 (Normal, 0% PAV, 0 ​mm TPV), Stage 1 (Mild, >0-5% PAV or >0-250 ​mm TPV), Stage 2 (Moderate, >5-15% PAV or >250-750 ​mm TPV) and Stage 3 (Severe, >15% PAV or >750 mm3 TPV).