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Morphometric measurements of systemic atherosclerosis and visceral fat: Evidence from an autopsy study


BACKGROUND:Morphometric measurements of systemic atherosclerosis and direct quantification of visceral fat are only possible using materials from autopsy studies. However, the few autopsy studies that have investigated the association of visceral fat with atherosclerosis had small sample sizes and focused on coronary arteries of young or middle-aged White subjects. We aimed to investigate the association of pericardial fat (PF) and abdominal visceral fat (AVF) with atherosclerosis in the aorta, coronary, carotid, and cerebral arteries in a large autopsy study. MATERIALS AND METHODS:We evaluated deceased subjects aged 30 years or above. We dissected and weighted the PF and the AVF and evaluated the atherosclerotic burden in the aorta, as well as the carotid, coronary, and cerebral arteries using morphometric measurements. We also investigated the interaction of PF and AVF with age regarding the atherosclerotic burden. RESULTS:The mean age of the 240 included subjects was 64.8±15.3 years, and 63% was male. Greater PF was associated with a higher degree of aortic atherosclerosis after adjusting for confounding variables (coefficient = 4.39, 95% CI = 0.83; 7.94, p = 0.02). Greater AVF was associated with a higher coronary stenosis index (coefficient = 1.49, 95% CI = 0.15; 2.83, p = 0.03) and a greater number of coronary plaques (coefficient = 0.71, 95% CI = 0.24; 1.19, p = 0.003). We did not find an association of PF or AVF with carotid or cerebral atherosclerotic burden. We found a significant interaction of AVF (coefficient = -0.08; 95% CI = -0.14; -0.02, p = 0.009) and PF (coefficient = -0.87, 95% CI = -1.70; -0.04, p = 0.04) with age regarding carotid artery atherosclerotic burden. CONCLUSIONS:Greater AVF was associated with greater atherosclerotic burden and extent in coronary arteries, while greater PF correlated with a higher degree of atherosclerosis in the aorta.

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