The association between oxidized low-density lipoprotein (OxLDL) and plaque instability in coronary and carotid artery disease is well-established. However, the association between OxLDL and the histologic changes of plaque in peripheral artery disease have not been clearly elucidated. This study aims to investigate the association between plasma OxLDL and histologic plaque instability in patients with peripheral artery disease.
Prospectively obtained plaques from 48 patients who underwent endovascular atherectomy (n=20), surgical endarterectomy (n=9), or bypass surgery (n=19) for treatment of atherosclerotic femoropopliteal artery disease were evaluated for histologic fibrosis, sclerosis, calcification, necrosis, cholesterol cleft, and foamy macrophages using hematoxylin and eosin, Oil Red O, and immunohistochemical staining. Unstable plaques were defined as plaques that were positive for foamy macrophages and with lipid content of more than 10% of the total plaque area. Plasma OxLDL levels were measured using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (Mercodia AB, Uppsala, Sweden).
Of the 48 patients, 26 (54%) had unstable plaques. The unstable plaque group was younger, had fewer angiographic total occlusions, less calcification, and more CD68-positive and LOX-1-positive cells than the stable plaque group. Plasma OxLDL levels were significantly higher in the unstable plaque group than in the stable plaque group (57.4 ± 13.9 vs. 47.2 ± 13.6 U/L, P=0.014). Multivariate analysis revealed that plasma OxLDL level, smoking, angiographic non-total occlusion, and statin non-use were independent predictors of unstable plaque.
Among patients with peripheral artery disease, the histologic instability of femoropopliteal plaque was independently associated with high plasma OxLDL, smoking, non-total occlusion, and statin non-use. Further large-scale studies are necessary to evaluate the role of non-invasive OxLDL measurement for predicting plaque instability and future adverse vascular event.