Ultrasonic carotid artery plaque structure and the risk of cerebral infarction on computed tomography

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Purpose: The North American and the European Symptomatic Carotid Endarterectomy Trial investigators reported a conclusive benefit of carotid endarterectomy for patients with symptomatic 70% to 99% internal carotid artery (ICA) stenosis. However, it has been suggested that plaque structure may be an even more important factor in producing stroke than the degree of stenosis. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that the ultrasonic characteristics of carotid artery plaques were closely related to symptoms and to the prevalence of cerebral infarcts on computed tomography (CT). Methods: One hundred five carotid artery plaques causing greater than 70% stenosis in the ICA in 83 consecutive patients who underwent brain CT were characterized into four ultrasonic types: echolucent plaques, predominately echolucent plaques, predominately echogenic plaques, and echogenic plaques. Patients with permanent neurologic deficit were excluded. Results: There was a significant ipsilateral association between type 1 plaques and symptomatic hemispheres (p < 0.002). Twenty-six of the 105 cerebral hemispheres assessed by CT had infarcts. There was an increased incidence of brain infarcts in type I plaques (37%) compared with 18% in types II, III, and IV combined (p < 0.02). Conclusion: Our results support the hypothesis that echolucent plaques are more frequently associated with symptoms and cerebral infarctions and provide further evidence that these plaques are unstable and tend to embolize. Studies on the natural history of asymptomatic carotid artery stenosis should investigate whether plaque characterization could identify a high-risk group. © 1994.




Geroulakos, G., Domjan, J., Nicolaides, A., Stevens, J., Labropoulos, N., Ramaswami, G., … Mansfield, A. (1994). Ultrasonic carotid artery plaque structure and the risk of cerebral infarction on computed tomography. Journal of Vascular Surgery, 20(2), 263–266. https://doi.org/10.1016/0741-5214(94)90014-0

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