Development of Carotid Intraplaque Hemorrhage Demonstrated by Serial Magnetic Resonance Imaging
A 68-year-old man presented with a sudden onset of weakness and paresthesia of the left arm. He had a history of myocardial infarction 4 years earlier and a known renal artery stenosis. A nonenhanced computed tomographic scan of the brain showed no signs of hemorrhage or infarction. The patient underwent intravenous thrombolysis with alteplase (0.9 mg/kg body wt, 10% initial bolus dose over 1 minute, followed by infusion of the remaining 90% of the dose over 60 minutes). Soon after, the symptoms completely disappeared except for the persistence of a slight paresthesia of the left arm. Doppler ultrasonography revealed a hypoechoic plaque proximally in the right internal carotid artery causing a 50% to 69% stenosis. ECG showed sinus rhythm with complete right bundle-branch block without ST-segment or T-wave abnormalities. Transcranial Doppler imaging revealed no stenosis of the right middle cerebral artery. Serum lipid profile was within normal limits. In addition to the aspirin (100 mg once per day) and atorvastatin (40 mg once per day) he was already using, the patient was prescribed dipyridamole (200 mg twice per day) for secondary stroke prevention.
Fifteen days after the initial onset of symptoms, the patient was enrolled in a clinical study investigating the natural history of carotid artery plaques. Magnetic resonance imaging scans of the brain and right carotid artery plaque were obtained, which revealed a recent discrete infarction of the right sensory region (Figure 1A and 1B) and a plaque with a large lipid-rich necrotic core with no or little hemorrhage (Figure 2A through 2D), respectively.
Three months after the initial event, the patient once more presented with sudden onset of weakness and a numb feeling of the left arm. The patient again underwent intravenous thrombolysis with alteplase. However, the symptoms persisted. A nonenhanced computed tomographic scan, performed 24 hours after thrombolysis, revealed a hypodense area in the right motor region. Repeated Doppler ultrasonography showed no change in carotid plaque echogenicity and degree of luminal narrowing of the right internal carotid artery. Ten days after the onset of the second event, the patient underwent repeated magnetic resonance imaging scans of the brain and right internal carotid artery plaque. These scans confirmed recent infarction in the right motor region (Figure 1C and 1D) and revealed recent intraplaque hemorrhage (Figure 2E through 2H).
Because of recurrent symptoms, the patient underwent carotid endarterectomy 20 days after the onset of the second event. Histological analysis of the excised plaque demonstrated large intraplaque hemorrhage (Figure 3A and 3B), confirming the magnetic resonance imaging findings. According to the American Heart Association, it was a type VI plaque (complex plaque with possible surface defect, hemorrhage, or thrombus).1
To our knowledge, this is the first report showing the in vivo development of carotid intraplaque hemorrhage and the coincidence of ipsilateral ischemic stroke. The findings of this case are in accordance with results of previous studies, which showed that carotid intraplaque hemorrhage on magnetic resonance imaging is associated with cerebral ischemic events.2–4
Sources of Funding
This study was supported by a Dutch Heart Foundation grant (2006B061).
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