Table of Contents
Definition of Atherosclerotic Plaques
Atherosclerotic plaques are debris that collects within the inner layer of the wall of an artery, also called arterial plaque.Atherosclerotic plaque typically includes fatty acids, dead cells, platelets, and other particles such as proteins and minerals (notably calcium, which gives the plaque its stiffness).
The fatty acids, such as cholesterol and triglycerides, are heavy and sticky. The flow of the blood pushes them to the outer edges, up against the arterial walls.
Initially the debris is a minor irritation to the inner surface of the arteries. Over time, however, the irritation creates inflammation that attracts further debris. The sticky nature of the debris in combination with the inflammation establishes a circumstance in which the debris becomes embedded within the intima, the inner layer of the arterial wall, creating deposits called atheromas and evolving into the disease state of atherosclerosis.