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Nicotine Tob Res. 2008 Mar;10(3):541-6. doi: 10.1080/14622200801902011.

The impact of carotid plaque screening on motivation for smoking cessation.

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Department of Ambulatory Care and Community Medicine, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.


Showing smokers their own atherosclerotic plaques might increase motivation for smoking cessation, since they underestimate their own risk for smoking-related diseases. To assess the feasibility and optimal processes of studying the impact of carotid atherosclerotic plaque screening in smokers, we enrolled 30 daily cigarette smokers, aged 40-70 years, in an observational pre-post pilot study. All smokers underwent smoking cessation counseling, nicotine replacement therapy, a carotid ultrasound, an educational tutorial on atherosclerosis, baseline and 2-month motivation to change assessment, and assessment of smoking cessation at 2 months. Participants had a mean smoking duration of 34 years (SD = 7). Carotid plaques were present in 22 smokers (73%). Between baseline and 2 months after plaque screening, motivation for smoking cessation increased from 7.4 to 8.4 out of 10 (p = .02), particularly in those with plaques (7.2 to 8.7, p = .008). At 2 months, the smoking quit rate was 63%, with a quit rate of 73% in those with plaques vs. 38% in those without plaques (p = .10). Perceived stress, anxiety, and depression did not increase after screening. 96% of respondents answered correctly at least 80% of questions regarding atherosclerosis knowledge at baseline and after 2 months. In conclusion, studying the process of screening for carotid plaques for the purpose of increasing motivation for smoking cessation, in addition to counseling and drug therapy for smoking cessation in long-term smokers, appears feasible. The impact of carotid plaque screening on smoking cessation should be examined in larger randomized controlled trials with sufficient power to assess the impact on long-term smoking cessation rates.

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