Background: Subclinical arteriosclerotic lesions at the carotid and femoral bifurcations may be related to the occurrence of future cardiovascular events and of occult arteriosclerotic coronary disease. B-mode ultrasound of carotid and femoral arteriosclerotic bifurcation lesions may provide a simple screening method to select asymptomatic subjects at risk of future events.
Methods and results: 13221 low-risk, healthy, asymptomatic individuals were included in a 10-year, prospective, follow-up based on carotid and femoral bifurcation morphology defined by B-mode ultrasound. Four classes were considered at inclusion (I: normal wall, II: wall thickening, III: non-stenosing plaques, IV: stenosing plaques). When 10000 subjects (75.6% of included subjects; 6055 males, 3945 females) completed the 10-year follow-up the study was concluded. At 10 years there were 10 events (out of 7989 subjects) in class I and 81 events in II (930 subjects; incidence=8.6%); 239 events were observed in class III (611 subjects; 39.28%) and 381 events (470 subjects; 81.06%) in IV; 61 deaths occurred in classes III+IV (1081 subjects) producing a death rate within these two classes of 5.5% (51 out of 61=81.5% in class IV). The increased event rates in classes III and IV were significant (log rank; P<0.02) in comparison with I and II.
Conclusions: Carotid and femoral morphology identified 2011 subjects (20.1% of the population) in classes II,III,IV including 98.6% of cardiovascular events and deaths in the following 10 years. A higher (P<0.05) rate of progression in classes III and IV in comparison with I and II was also observed. The ultrasound carotid and femoral classification was useful in selecting subjects at very low risk of cardiovascular events (class I), those at limited risk (class II) and a group at moderate risk (class III). A subpopulation at high risk of cardiovascular events (IV) was identified.