Ezetimibe and Regression of Carotid Atherosclerosis
Importance of Measuring Plaque Burden
Background and Purpose—There has been recent controversy over failure of ezetimibe to reduce carotid intima-media thickness. Much of this is based on failure to understand important differences among ultrasound phenotypes of atherosclerosis.
Methods—We analyzed the effect of adding ezetimibe to the regimen of patients being followed in vascular prevention clinics where measurement of carotid plaque burden (total plaque area) is used to guide therapy.
Results—There were complete data in 231 patients with total plaque area for 2 years before and 2 years after initiation of ezetimibe. In the 2 years before and after initiation of ezetimibe, total cholesterol decreased significantly before (P<0.0001) and after initiation of ezetimibe (P<0.0001); low-density lipoprotein cholesterol declined significantly before (P<0.0001) and after (P=0.003) initiation of ezetimibe. Triglycerides declined significantly before ezetimibe (P<0.0001) but did not change after addition of ezetimibe (P=0.48). High-density lipoprotein cholesterol did not change significantly before (P=0.87) but declined significantly after ezetimibe (P=0.03). Despite the decline in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol before addition of ezetimibe, there was a significant mean increase in within-individual total plaque area in the 2 years before addition of ezetimibe by 6.89±39.57 mm2 (SD); after addition of ezetimibe, despite the decline in high-density lipoprotein, plaque area decreased by −3.05±SD 38.18 mm2 SD (P<0.01).
Conclusions—Ezetimibe appears to regress carotid plaque burden. To assess effects of antiatherosclerotic therapies, it is important to measure plaque burden. These findings should be tested in a clinical trial.
- Received October 4, 2011.
- Revision received November 24, 2011.
- Accepted November 30, 2011.
- © 2012 American Heart Association, Inc.