Relation of coronary artery plaque location to extent of coronary artery disease studied by computed tomographic angiography

Carl Grunfeld, Rebecca Scherzer, Paul D. Varosy, Gopal Ambarish, Khurram Nasir, Matthew Budoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Distal coronary artery disease (CAD) is less amenable to surgery or stenting compared with proximal disease. However, little is known about the epidemiology of distal versus proximal CAD. Methods: We determined the prevalence and factors associated with proximal, mid, and distally located plaque in the left anterior descending, left circumflex, and right coronary arteries in 418 subjects without prior CAD history who underwent coronary computed tomographic angiography for symptoms or stress test results. Clinical characteristics and coronary artery calcium (CAC) scores were also determined. Results: Most subjects (88%) had plaque, but only 18% of plaques were associated with stenosis >50%. In subjects with single-vessel plaque, only 7% had distal plaque, whereas 75% had proximal plaque. With 3-vessel plaque, 70% had distal and 100% had proximal plaques. Of subjects with a single location of plaque along a vessel, most had proximal plaque (69%); isolated distal-vessel plaque was rare (2%). Distal plaque was dominantly found in association with both proximal and mid plaque (88%). After multivariable adjustment for demographics, traditional, and nontraditional risk factors, both increasing number of vessels with plaque and clinically significant CAC scores were independently associated with higher odds of distal plaque, whereas associations of traditional risk factors were weaker. Distal plaque was independently associated with stenosis > 50%. Conclusion: These data support the concept that early lesions are most often proximal and that CAC scoring may be a poor screening tool for detecting proximal disease. Furthermore, distal lesions are more associated with advanced disease than with traditional cardiovascular risk factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-26
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of cardiovascular computed tomography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • CAC;Noninvasive angiography
  • CTA;Coronary artery calcium
  • Computed tomography angiography
  • Prevalence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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