Background and purpose: Although mitral annulus calcification (MAC) has been reported to be a significant independent predictor of stroke, no causative relationship was proven. It is also known that aortic atheroma (AA), especially those >/=5 mm thick and/or protruding and/or mobile are associated with stroke. This study was designed to determine whether an association exists between MAC and AA.
Methods: We prospectively evaluated the records of 279 consecutive patients who underwent transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) for various indications to measure the presence and characteristics of AA. The 105 patients in whom a diagnosis of MAC was made on transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) immediately preceding the TEE, were compared with 174 age-matched patients without MAC. MAC was defined as a dense, localized, highly reflective area at the base of the posterior mitral leaflet. We measured MAC thickness with two-dimensional-TTE in four-chamber view and AA thickness, protrusion and mobility with TEE. AA was defined as localized intimal thickening of >/=3 mm. A lesion was considered complex if there was plaque extending >/=5 mm into the aortic lumen and/or if it was protruding, mobile or ulcerated.
Results: No differences were found between the groups in risk factors for atherosclerosis or in indications for referral for TEE. Significantly higher rates were found in the MAC group for prevalence of AA (91 vs. 44%, P<0.001), atheromas >/=5 mm thick (68 vs. 19%, P<0.001), protruding atheromas (44 vs. 15%, P<0.001), ulcerated atheromas (10 vs. 1%, P<0.001) and complex atheroma (74 vs. 22%, P<0.001). Sixty patients had MAC thickness >/=6 mm and 45<6 mm. AA thickness was significantly greater in the patients with a MAC thickness of >/=6 mm (6.1+/-2.8 vs. 5.0+/-2.6 mm, P=0.03). On multivariate analysis MAC, hypertension and age were the only independent predictors of AA (P=0.0001, 0.005 and 0.007, respectively).
Conclusions: There is a significant association between the presence and severity of MAC and AA. MAC may be an important marker for atherosclerosis of the aorta. This association may explain in part the high prevalence of systemic emboli and stroke in patients with MAC.