Cardiovascular computed tomography imaging for coronary artery disease risk: plaque, flow and fat.
Channon KM., Newby DE., Nicol ED., Deanfield J.
Cardiac imaging is central to the diagnosis and risk stratification of coronary artery disease, beyond symptoms and clinical risk factors, by providing objective evidence of myocardial ischaemia and characterisation of coronary artery plaque. CT coronary angiography can detect coronary plaque with high resolution, estimate the degree of functional stenosis and characterise plaque features. However, coronary artery disease risk is also driven by biological processes, such as inflammation, that are not fully reflected by severity of stenosis, myocardial ischaemia or by coronary plaque features. New cardiac CT techniques can assess coronary artery inflammation by imaging perivascular fat, and this may represent an important step forward in identifying the 'residual risk' that is not detected by plaque or ischaemia imaging. Coronary artery disease risk assessment that incorporates clinical factors, plaque characteristics and perivascular inflammation offers a more comprehensive individualised approach to quantify and stratify coronary artery disease risk, with potential healthcare benefits for prevention, diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Furthermore, identifying new biomarkers of cardiovascular risk has the potential to refine early-life prevention strategies, before atherosclerosis becomes established.