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J Clin Epidemiol. 1994 Aug;47(8):921-30.

Reproducibility of carotid vessel wall thickness measurements. The Rotterdam Study.

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Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Erasmus University Medical School, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


We studied the reproducibility of measurement of ultrasonographically assessed common carotid intima-media thickness and assessed whether measurement error of intima-media thickness occurred randomly or was associated with potential determinants of atherosclerosis. Eighty participants of the Rotterdam Study underwent a second ultrasound scan of both carotid arteries within 3 months of the first scan. The replicate measurements involved the posterior intima-media thickness of the distal common carotid artery. Mean differences (SD) in intima-media thickness of the right common carotid artery between paired measurements of sonographers, readers and visits were -0.004 mm (0.10), 0.066 mm (0.07), and -0.013 mm (0.13), respectively. Similar results were obtained for the left common carotid artery. Measurement error of intima-media thickness, i.e. the absolute difference in measurements between two subsequent visits, increased significantly with increasing common carotid intima-media thickness. This association disappeared after logarithmical transformation of the intima-media thickness data. Age, sex, smoking, body mass index, serum lipids, fibrinogen, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure were not significantly associated with the measurement error of intima-media thickness. Our findings indicate that measurements of common carotid intima-media thickness are highly reproducible. Measurement error of intima-media thickness is small and appears to be proportional with the level of intima-media thickness and is not significantly associated with most risk factors for atherosclerotic vessel wall disease.

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