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Carotid plaque ultrasonic heterogeneity and severity of stenosis. Stroke 2002 Jul;33(7):1772-5



Pubmed ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-0036314848   125 Citations


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Several studies have reported on the correlation of ultrasonic carotid plaque morphology, cerebrovascular symptoms, and intraplaque hemorrhage. This study correlates ultrasonic carotid plaque morphology with the degree of carotid stenosis.

METHODS: Carotid arteries (n=2460) were examined by using color duplex ultrasound during a 1-year period. Carotid stenoses were classified into <50%, 50% to <60%, 60% to <70%, and >70% to 99%. Ultrasonic plaque morphology was characterized as either heterogeneous (mixed hyperechoic, hypoechoic, and isoechoic) or homogeneous.

RESULTS: Heterogeneous plaques were noted in 138 of 794 arteries with <50% stenosis, in 191 of 564 arteries with 50% to <60% stenosis, in 301 of 487 arteries with 60% to <70% stenosis, and in 496 of 615 arteries with 70% to 99% stenosis. The higher the degree of stenosis, the more likely it is to be associated with heterogeneous plaques. Heterogeneous plaques were present in 59% of the arteries with > or =50% stenoses versus 17% of the arteries with <50% stenoses, in 72% of the arteries with > or =60% stenoses versus 24% of the arteries with <60% stenosis, and in 80% of the arteries with > or =70% stenoses versus 34% of the arteries with <70% stenoses (P<0.0001 and odds ratios of 6.9, 8.1, and 8.0, respectively). Heterogeneous plaques were associated with an incidence of symptoms that was higher than that for homogeneous plaques for all grades of stenoses; percentages were, respectively, as follows: 68% versus 16% for <50% stenosis; 76% versus 21% for 50% to <60% stenosis; 79% versus 23% for 60% to <70% stenosis, and 86% versus 31% for > or =70% to 99% stenosis (P<0.0001 and odds ratios of 8.9, 11.9, 12.6, and 13.7, respectively). Heterogeneity of plaques was more positively correlated with symptoms than with any degree of stenosis (regardless of plaque structure). Eighty percent of all heterogeneous plaques were symptomatic versus 58% for all stenoses > or =50%, 68% for all stenoses > or =60%, and 75% for all stenoses > or =70% (P<0.0001, P<0.0001, and P=0.02, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: The higher the degree of carotid stenosis, the more likely it is to be associated with ultrasonic heterogeneous plaque and cerebrovascular symptoms. Heterogeneity of the plaque was more positively correlated with symptoms than with any degree of stenosis. These findings suggest that plaque heterogeneity should be considered in selecting patients for carotid endarterectomy.

Author List

AbuRahma AF, Wulu JT Jr, Crotty B


Bradley H. Crotty MD Associate Professor in the Medicine department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Carotid Arteries
Carotid Stenosis
Ischemic Attack, Transient
Odds Ratio
Predictive Value of Tests
Severity of Illness Index
Ultrasonography, Doppler, Color