We hypothesized that serum lipids, which experimental data suggest may be key initiators of carotid plaque inflammation, would be associated with plaque inflammation on (18)fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-PET in patients with acutely symptomatic carotid stenosis. In this cohort study, consecutive patients with acute symptomatic internal carotid artery (ICA) stenosis (≥50%) underwent carotid PET-CT. We quantified plaque FDG uptake as follows: (1) average maximum standardized uptake values (SUVmax) across 10 regions of interest (ROI); (2) highest single ROI SUV measure (SUVROImax); (3) averaged mean SUV across 10 ROIs (SUVmean). Sixty-one patients were included. Plaque inflammatory FDG SUVmax was associated with increasing tertiles of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (trend p = 0.004), total cholesterol (p = 0.009), and triglycerides (p = 0.01), and with lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL) (p = 0.005). When analyzed as a continuous variable, LDL was associated with symptomatic ICA SUVmean (Spearman rho 0.44, p = 0.009), SUVROImax (rho 0.33, p = 0.01), and SUVmax (rho 0.35, p = 0.06). Total cholesterol was associated with SUVmean (rho 0.33, p = 0.009), with trends for SUVmax (rho 0.24, p = 0.059) and SUVROImax (rho 0.23, p = 0.08). Triglycerides were associated with SUVmax (rho 0.32, p = 0.01) and SUVROImax (rho 0.35, p = 0.005). HDL was associated with lower SUVmax (rho -0.37, p = 0.004) and SUVROImax (rho -0.44, p = 0.0004). On multivariable linear regression analysis adjusting for age, sex, degree of carotid stenosis, statins, and smoking, LDL (p = 0.008) and total cholesterol (p = 0.04) were independently associated with SUVmax. Serum LDL and total cholesterol were associated with acutely symptomatic carotid plaque FDG uptake, supporting experimental data suggesting lipids may promote plaque inflammation, mediating rupture and clinical events.
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