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Clin Radiol. 2002 Jul;57(7):600-3.

Carotid intima-media thickness in patients with head and neck irradiation for the treatment of nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

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Departments of Diagnostic Radiology and Organ Imaging, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.



Intima-media thickness (IMT) has been shown to be useful in the evaluation and monitoring of carotid artery atherosclerosis in patients at risk of cardiovascular events. In this study, we aimed to examine the IMT in patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) who received irradiation to the carotid arteries during radiotherapy, and compared them with a control group.


Fifty-one NPC patients (aged between 39 and 69 years) and a group of 51 age-and sex-matched controls were studied by ultrasound. The IMT at the far wall of the common carotid artery was measured three times and the average value taken in each subject. The IMT of both groups were compared. Risk factors for IMT thickness, including hypertension, smoking, hyperglycaemia, hypercholesterolaemia, history of cerebrovascular accidents and cardiovascular disease, were also studied.


The mean carotid IMT of patients in the NPC group (2.2+/-1.5 mm) was statistically greater than that in normal controls (0.7+/-0.15 mm) (P < 0.05). There was no statistically significant difference between the IMT in the right and left common carotid arteries within each group of patients.


The findings suggest that patients with irradiation have increased arterial IMT. As they are asymptomatic the clinical relevance is not clear.

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