Regression of severe atherosclerotic plaque in patients with mild elevation of LDL cholesterol

Saul Schaefer, Hassan Hussein, Gary R. Gershony, John C Rutledge, C. Tissa Kappagoda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Intensive risk factor reduction in patients with dyslipidemias and coronary atherosclerosis has been shown to result in alterations in coronary artery morphology and reduced clinical events. However, the impact of such interventions in populations with relatively normal levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) is unclear. Methods: To test the hypothesis that intensive risk factor reduction results in angiographic regression in patients with only mildly elevated levels of LDL, 14 patients with angiographically proven coronary atherosclerosis were entered into the University of California Davis Coronary Artery Disease Regression Program and intensively treated with pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions for 2 years. Quantitative angiography was performed prior to and after 2 years of therapy to determine changes in coronary artery diameter. Results: As a result of this program, dietary fat intake was reduced by 58% and LDL fell from 120 ± 7 mg/dL to 104 ± 6 mg/dL (p = 0.05). The average diameter of the measured arterial locations (including all 53 stenoses and 292 nondiscrete regions) on study entry was 2.74 ± 0.05 mm. After 24 months, there was a net increase in arterial diame-ter (regression) of +0.05 ± 0.04 mm to 2.81 ± 0.05 mm (p = 0.01). While there was no significant change in the average diameter of discrete stenoses, all 8 lesions ≥ 50% initial diameter narrowing regressed, with a mean diameter change of +0.2 mm. Conversely, only 1 of 8 mild lesions ≤ 20% regressed, while 4 progressed. Intermediate lesions (20% to 50%, n = 37) had balanced progression and regression. Conclusions: When examined as a continuous variable, there was a significant linear correlation between initial lesion severity (% stenosis) and the extent of regression (mm). Therefore, risk factor reduction (dietary therapy, exercise, psycho-social counseling, and lipid lowering therapy) in patients with only mild dyslipidemia results in angiographic regression of more severe lesions (> 50% initial stenosis), but does not prevent progression of mild lesions (< 20%). These findings demonstrate that intensive risk factor reduction in patients with only mild elevation of lipids beneficially influences the morphology of the most severe lesions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)536-541
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Investigative Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1997


  • Coronary artery disease
  • Excerise
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Lipids
  • Progression
  • Quantitative angiography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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