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Circ Cardiovasc Imaging. 2011 May;4(3):246-52. doi: 10.1161/CIRCIMAGING.110.962183. Epub 2011 Mar 24.

Superficial femoral artery plaque, the ankle-brachial index, and leg symptoms in peripheral arterial disease: the walking and leg circulation study (WALCS) III.

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Department of Medicine, Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA.



The clinical significance of magnetic resonance-imaged plaque characteristics in the superficial femoral artery (SFA) is not well established. We studied associations of the ankle-brachial index (ABI) and leg symptoms with MRI-measured plaque area and percent lumen area in the SFA in participants with and without lower-extremity peripheral arterial disease (PAD).


Four hundred twenty-seven participants (393 with PAD) underwent plaque imaging of the first 30 mm of the SFA. Twelve 2.5-mm cross-sectional images of the SFA were obtained. Outcomes were normalized plaque area, adjusted for artery size (0 to 1 scale, 1=greatest plaque), and lumen area, expressed as a percent of the total artery area. Adjusting for age, sex, race, smoking, statins, cholesterol, and other covariates, lower ABI values were associated with higher normalized mean plaque area (ABI <0.50:0.79; ABI 0.50 to 0.69:0.73; ABI 0.70 to 0.89:0.65; ABI 0.90 to 0.99:0.62; ABI 1.00 to 1.09:0.48; ABI 1.10 to 1.30:0.47 (P trend <0.001)) and smaller mean percent lumen area (P trend <0.001). Compared with PAD participants with intermittent claudication, asymptomatic PAD participants had lower normalized mean plaque area (0.72 versus 0.65, P=0.005) and larger mean percent lumen area (0.30 versus 0.36, P=0.01), adjusting for the ABI and other confounders.


Lower ABI values are associated with greater MRI-measured plaque burden and smaller lumen area in the first 30 mm of the SFA. Compared with PAD participants with claudication, asymptomatic PAD participants have smaller plaque area and larger lumen area in the SFA. Clinical Trial Registration- URL: Unique identifier: NCT00520312.

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