Background: An increased level of serum C-reactive protein (CRP) is a known prognostic factor for acute coronary events and sudden cardiac death, and it is associated with coronary calcification. CRP is expressed in coronary arteries, but its role in the development of coronary plaques is unclear.
Aim: To investigate CRP immunoreactivity in relation to the severity of coronary artery disease and plaque morphology in human left anterior descending coronary arteries (LAD).
Methods: A prospective, consecutive autopsy series of 66 patients (mean age 63.4 years) in Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland.
Results: CRP immunoreactivity was seen in 59% of the cases. In logistic regression analysis with age, sex and body mass index as confounders, CRP immunoreactivity in LAD was associated with >50% stenosis and plaque calcification. All three cases with acute coronary thrombosis due to rupture or erosion of the plaque showed a clear immunopositive reaction. CRP-positive cells were never detected in normal arteries, but were often found in early fibrous plaques (75%) and almost invariably present in the shoulder area of plaques with necrotic core (96%). CRP immunoreactivity adjacent to calcified areas in more stable plaques (71%) was less consistent with one-third of these plaques showing no immunoreactivity.
Conclusions: CRP immunoreactivity is associated with the progression of atherosclerosis, and especially with unstable coronary plaques. The immunoreactivity could cease at the stable calcified stages of atherosclerosis.
- CRP, C reactive protein
- LAD, left anterior descending coronary artery
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