Increased epicardial fat thickness in sudden death from stable coronary artery atherosclerosis

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Journal Article
American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 2017, 38 (2), pp. 162 - 166
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Copyright © 2017 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved. Background: Sudden death from stable coronary artery atherosclerosis (SCAA) is well recognized. However, individuals can have ischemic heart disease or coronary artery atherosclerosis but die of noncardiac causes. Recently, it has been recognized that increased epicardial fat is detrimental to normal heart function. We hypothesize that individuals who die of SCAA have increased epicardial fat. Aim: The aim of this study was to investigate whether there is an increase in epicardial fat in individuals who suddenly died of SCAA. Methods: This was a 1-year retrospective study comparing the average epicardial fat thickness using postmortem computed tomography scan between individuals who suddenly died of SCAA (SCAA group) with individuals who primarily died of natural noncardiac causes but had established ischemic heart disease or significant coronary artery atherosclerosis (NCC group). Results: Average epicardial fat thickness was significantly higher in the SCAA group (8 ± 2 mm) than in the NCC group (6 ± 2 mm, P = 0.008). Conclusions: Individuals who die of SCAA appear to have higher epicardial fat thickness. The increase in epicardial fat may have an additional detrimental effect to the heart predisposing sudden death in individuals with coronary artery atherosclerosis.
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