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Cardiovasc Ultrasound. 2005 Jun 15;3:15.

A comparison of ultrasound measurements to assess carotid atherosclerosis development in subjects with and without type 2 diabetes.

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Robarts Research Institute, London, Ontario, Canada.



Subjects with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk of vascular complications. The use of carotid ultrasound remains an attractive, non-invasive method to monitor atherosclerotic disease progression and/or response to treatment in patients with type 2 diabetes, with intima-media thickness routinely used as the gold standard to detect pathology. However, alternative measurements, such as plaque area or volume, may represent a potentially more powerful approach. Thus, the objective of this study was to compare the traditional intima-media thickness measurement against the novel total plaque volume measurement in analyzing carotid atherosclerosis development in individuals with type 2 diabetes.


The case-control study included 49 Oji-Cree adults with diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance, aged 21-69, and 49 sex- and age-matched normoglycemic subjects. At baseline, metabolic variables were measured, including body mass index, waist circumference, total cholesterol: high density lipoprotein ratio, plasma triglycerides, plasma glucose, and serum insulin. Carotid ultrasound measurements, 7 years later, assessed carotid arterial intima-media thickness and total plaque volume.


At baseline, the two groups were well matched for smoking habits, hypertension, body mass index, and waist circumference. Differences were noted in baseline measurements of total cholesterol:high density lipoprotein (P = 0.0006), plasma triglycerides (P < 0.0001) and fasting glucose (P < 0.0001). After seven years, carotid ultrasound scans revealed that total plaque volume measurements (P = 0.037), but not intima-media thickness measurements, were higher in subjects with diabetes/impaired glucose tolerance compared to the normoglycemic controls. Correlation between intima-media thickness and total plaque volume was moderate. Based on our study findings, to achieve power levels > 0.70 when comparing intima-media thickness measurements for diabetics versus non-diabetics, thousands of study subjects are required. For comparing total plaque volume measurements, only hundreds of study subjects are required.


The development of atherosclerotic plaque is greater in subjects with diabetes/impaired glucose tolerance. Total plaque volume appears to capture the atherosclerotic disease burden more effectively in subjects with type 2 diabetes, and would be an appropriate outcome measure for studies aimed at changing the diabetic milieu.

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