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Stroke. 2006 Nov;37(11):2696-701. Epub 2006 Sep 28.

Carotid plaque surface irregularity predicts ischemic stroke: the northern Manhattan study.

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1
The Neurological Institute, Columbia University, Stroke and Critical Care Division, 710 W 168th Street, Room 640, New York, NY 10032, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE:

There is scant population-based evidence regarding extracranial carotid plaque surface irregularity and ischemic stroke. Using a prospective cohort design, we evaluated the association of carotid plaque surface irregularity and the risk of ischemic stroke in a multiethnic population.

METHODS:

High-resolution B-mode ultrasound of the carotid arteries was performed in 1939 stroke-free subjects (mean age 69+/-10.0 years; 59% women; 53% Hispanic, 25% black, 22% white). Plaque was defined as a focal protrusion 50% greater than the surrounding area and localized along the extracranial carotid tree (internal carotid artery/bifurcation vs common carotid artery). Plaque surface was categorized as regular or irregular. Cox proportional hazard models were used to assess the association of surface characteristics and the risk of ischemic stroke.

RESULTS:

Among 1939 total subjects, carotid plaque was visualized in 56.3% (1 plaque: 21.6%, >1 plaque: 34.7%, irregular plaque: 5.5%). During a mean follow up of 6.2 years after ultrasound examination, 69 ischemic strokes occurred. Unadjusted cumulative 5-year risks of ischemic stroke were: 1.3%, 3.0%, and 8.5% for no plaque, regular plaque, and irregular plaque, respectively. After adjusting for demographics, traditional vascular risk factors, degree of stenosis, and plaque thickness, presence of irregular plaque (vs no plaque) was independently associated with ischemic stroke (Hazard ratio, 3.1; 95% CI, 1.1 to 8.5).

CONCLUSIONS:

The presence of irregular carotid plaque independently predicted ischemic stroke in a multiethnic cohort. Plaque surface irregularities assessed by B-mode ultrasonography may help identify intermediate- to high-risk individuals beyond their vascular risk assessed by the presence of traditional risk factors.

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