Ultrasonic Echolucent Carotid Plaques Predict Future Strokes
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Background—We tested prospectively the hypothesis that stroke development can be predicted by echolucency of carotid atherosclerotic plaques in previously symptomatic and asymptomatic patients.
Methods and Results—We followed incidence of ipsilateral ischemic strokes for 4.4 years in 111 asymptomatic and 135 symptomatic patients with ≥50% relevant carotid artery stenosis. At inclusion, echogenicity of carotid plaques and degree of stenosis were evaluated with high-resolution B-mode ultrasound with computer-assisted image processing and Doppler ultrasound, respectively. We observed 44 ipsilateral ischemic strokes. In symptomatic patients, relative risk of ipsilateral ischemic stroke for echolucent versus echorich plaques was 3.1 (95% CI, 1.3 to 7.3), whereas for 80% to 99% versus 50% to 79% stenosis, the relative risk was 1.4 (95% CI, 0.7 to 3.0). Relative to symptomatic patients with echorich 50% to 79% stenotic plaques, those with echorich 80% to 99% stenotic plaques, echolucent 50% to 79% stenotic plaques, and echolucent 80% to 99% stenotic plaques had relative risks of ipsilateral ischemic strokes of 3.1 (95%CI, 0.7 to 14), 4.2 (95% CI, 1.2 to 15), and 7.9 (95% CI, 2.1 to 30), equivalent to absolute risk increases of 11%, 18%, and 28%. This was not observed in previously asymptomatic patients.
Conclusions—Echolucent plaques causing ≥50% diameter stenosis by Doppler ultrasound are associated with risk of future stroke in symptomatic but not asymptomatic individuals. This suggests that measurement of echolucency, together with degree of stenosis, may improve selection of patients for carotid endarterectomy.
- Received February 2, 2001.
- Revision received April 10, 2001.
- Accepted April 11, 2001.
- Copyright © 2001 by American Heart Association