Open Access Open Badges Research article

Early decrease in carotid plaque lipid content as assessed by magnetic resonance imaging during treatment of rosuvastatin

Ruixue Du1, Jianming Cai2, Xue-Qiao Zhao3, Qing-Jun Wang2, Dan-Qing Liu2, Wen-Xiu Leng1, Peng Gao1, Hong-Mei Wu1, Lin Ma2* and Ping Ye1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Geriatric Cardiology, Chinese PLA General Hospital, No. 28, Fuxing Road, Beijing 100853, China

2 Department of Radiology, Chinese PLA General Hospital, No. 28, Fuxing Road, Beijing 100853, China

3 Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

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BMC Cardiovascular Disorders 2014, 14:83  doi:10.1186/1471-2261-14-83

Published: 14 July 2014



Statin therapy has shown to deplete atherosclerotic plaque lipid content and induce plaque regression. However, how early the plaque lipid depletion can occur with low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) lowering in humans in vivo has not been fully described.


We enrolled 43 lipid treatment naïve subjects with asymptomatic carotid atherosclerosis and LDL-C ≥ 100 and ≤ 250 mg/dl. Rosuvastatin 5–20 mg/day was used to lower LDL-C levels to < 80 mg/dl. Lipid profile and carotid MRI scans were obtained at baseline, 3, 12, and 24 months. Carotid plaque lipid-rich necrotic core (LRNC) and plaque burden were measured and compared between baseline and during treatment.


Among the 32 subjects who completed the study, at 3 months, an average dose of rosuvastatin of 11 mg/day lowered LDL-C levels by 47% (125.2 ± 24.4 mg/dl vs. 66.7 ± 17.3 mg/dl, p < 0.001). There were no statistically significant changes in total wall volume, percent wall volume or lumen volume. However, LRNC volume was significantly decreased by 7.9 mm3, a reduction of 7.3% (111.5 ± 104.2 mm3 vs. 103.6 ± 95.8 mm3, p = 0.044). Similarly, % LRNC was also significantly decreased from 18.9 ± 11.9% to 17.9 ± 11.5% (p = 0.02) at 3 months. Both LRNC volume and % LRNC continued to decrease moderately at 12 and 24 months, although this trend was not significant.


Among a small number of lipid treatment naïve subjects, rosuvastatin therapy may induce a rapid and lasting decrease in carotid plaque lipid content as assessed by MRI.

Trial registration

ClinicalTrials.Gov numbers NCT00885872

Atherosclerosis; Plaque lipid content; Statin; Magnetic resonance imaging