Although the presence of ischemia is a key prognostic factor in patients with coronary artery disease, the presence of high-risk plaque characteristics (HRPC) is also associated with increased risk of cardiovascular events. Limited data exist regarding the prognostic implications of combined information on physiological stenosis severity assessed by fractional flow reserve (FFR) and plaque vulnerability by coronary computed tomography angiography (CTA)–defined HRPC.
The current study aimed to evaluate the: 1) association between physiological stenosis severity and coronary CTA-defined HRPC; and 2) prognostic implications of coronary CTA-defined HRPC according to physiological stenosis severity in patients with coronary artery disease.
A total of 772 vessels (299 patients) evaluated by both coronary CTA and FFR were analyzed. The presence and number of HRPC (minimum lumen area <4 mm2, plaque burden ≥70%, low attenuating plaque, positive remodeling, napkin-ring sign, or spotty calcification) were assessed using coronary CTA images. The risk of vessel-oriented composite outcome (VOCO) (a composite of vessel-related ischemia-driven revascularization, vessel-related myocardial infarction, or cardiac death) at 5 years was compared according to the number of HRPC and FFR categories.
The proportion of lesions with ≥3 HRPC was significantly decreased according to the increase in FFR values (58.6%, 46.5%, 36.8%, 15.7%, and 3.5% for FFR ≤0.60, 0.61 to ≤0.70, 0.71 to ≤0.80, 0.81 to ≤0.90, and >0.90, respectively; overall p value <0.001). Both FFR and number of HRPC showed significant association with the estimated risk of VOCO (p = 0.008 and p = 0.023, respectively). In the FFR >0.80 group, lesions with ≥3 HRPC showed significantly higher risk of VOCO than those with <3 HRPC (15.0% vs. 4.3%; hazard ratio: 3.964; 95% confidence interval: 1.451 to 10.828; p = 0.007). However, there was no significant difference in the risk of VOCO according to HRPC in the FFR ≤0.80 group. By multivariable analysis, the presence of ≥3 HRPC was independently associated with the risk of VOCO in the FFR >0.80 group.
Physiological stenosis severity and the number of HRPC were closely related, and both components had significant association with the risk of clinical events. However, the prognostic implication of HRPC was different according to FFR. Integration of both physiological stenosis severity and plaque vulnerability would provide better prognostic stratification of patients than either individual component alone, especially in patients with FFR >0.80. (Clinical Implication of 3-vessel Fractional Flow Reserve [3V FFR-FRIENDS study]; NCT01621438)