• Article

Ultrasonographic correlates of carotid atherosclerosis in transient ischemic attack and stroke

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Atherosclerotic plaques in extracranial carotid arteries, particularly in the bifurcation of the common carotid and internal carotid arteries, may cause transient cerebral ischemia and stroke by lumen stenosis or plaque-related thromboembolism. B-mode ultrasound imaging has the capability of providing information on plaque thickness, characteristics, and location in carotid arteries. METHODS: A retrospective analysis of 242 stroke and 336 transient ischemic attack (TIA) patients, recruited for the B-Scan Ultrasound Imaging Assessment Program, was performed to determine the ultrasonographic correlates of carotid atherosclerosis and acute cerebral ischemia. A matched case-control study design was used to compare brain hemispheres with ischemic lesions ('cases') to unaffected contralateral hemispheres ('controls') with regard to the presence and characteristics of carotid artery plaques. RESULTS: The first set of analyses examined the association between the presence of carotid plaques ipsilateral to the brain lesion and the occurrence of stroke or TIA and showed an association with recent episodes of TIA and stroke (odds ratio [OR], 1.6; P = .03) but not with past episodes. In a subset (n = 232) of patients with plaques in both carotid arteries and recent cerebral ischemic events, stroke was associated with ipsilateral carotid artery occlusion (P = .02). Lumen measurements at the site of the minimum residual lumen (MRL) diameter showed a significant association between a narrower lumen diameter in the carotid artery ipsilateral to case hemisphere and stroke (difference, 1.0 mm; P = .0003). TIA patients showed an association between both hypoechoic carotid plaques (OR, 3.0; P = .005) and the presence of longitudinal lesion motion (OR, 3.0; P = .02) with ipsilateral brain involvement. Plaque thickness at the MRL was positively correlated with both ipsilateral TIA (ipsilateral side, 4.4 +/- 0.15 mm; contralateral side, 3.9 +/- 0.16 mm; P = .007) and stroke (ipsilateral side, 4.2 +/- 0.23 mm; contralateral side, 3.3 +/- 0.21 mm; P = .0006). CONCLUSIONS: These data demonstrate significant relationships between carotid artery ultrasound plaque characteristics and ischemic cerebrovascular events. These findings encourage further prospective studies in asymptomatic subjects focused on echographic carotid plaque characteristics as predictors of subsequent TIA or stroke


Iannuzzi, A., Wilcosky, T., Mercuri, M., Rubba, P., Bryan, F., & Bond, MG. (1995). Ultrasonographic correlates of carotid atherosclerosis in transient ischemic attack and stroke. Stroke, 26(4), 614-619.