Insights into atherosclerosis from invasive and non-invasive imaging studies: Should we treat subclinical atherosclerosis?

Raul D. Santos, Khurram Nasir

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Although atherosclerosis is associated with the elderly, young adults with hypercholesterolemia and other cardiovascular risk factors may have subclinical atherosclerotic disease. In many cases, when two or more risk factors are present, conventional risk assessment using the Framingham score, that was not designed to detect atherosclerotic plaques, may significantly underestimate the extent of atherosclerosis. Several non-invasive imaging technologies now make it possible to identify subclinical atherosclerosis before symptoms appear or major vascular events occur. These include B-mode ultrasound to measure carotid intima-media thickness, computed tomography to measure coronary artery calcification, and high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate plaque size and composition. On the basis of available evidence, assessment of subclinical atherosclerosis should be considered in persons judged to be at intermediate risk by Framingham score, because test results may influence risk stratification and, consequently, the intensity of therapeutic intervention. Patients with significant subclinical atherosclerosis are at high risk and, like other high-risk individuals, should receive treatment designed to achieve aggressive low-density lipoprotein cholesterol targets. Clinical studies show that statin therapy may delay atherosclerosis progression and that intensive therapy with rosuvastatin may actually reverse the atherosclerotic process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-356
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • Carotid intima-media thickness
  • Coronary artery calcification
  • Intravascular ultrasound
  • Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Statins
  • Subclinical atherosclerosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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