Carotid bifurcation calcium and correlation with percent stenosis of the internal carotid artery on CT angiography

Neuroradiology. 2005 Jan;47(1):1-9. doi: 10.1007/s00234-004-1301-4. Epub 2005 Jan 14.


The aim of this paper was to determine the correlation between calcium burden (expressed as a volume) and extent of stenosis of the origin of the internal carotid artery (ICA) by CT angiography (CTA). Previous studies have shown that calcification in the coronary arteries correlates with significant vessel stenosis, and severe calcification (measured by CT) in the carotid siphon correlates with significant (greater than 50% stenosis) as determined angiographically. Sixty-one patients (age range 50-85 years) underwent CT of the neck with intravenous administration of iodinated contrast for a variety of conditions. Images were obtained with a helical multidetector array CT scanner and reviewed on a three-dimensional workstation. A single observer manipulated window and level to segment calcified plaque from vascular enhancement in order to quantify vascular calcium volume (cc) in the region of the bifurcation of the common carotid artery/ICA origin, and to measure the extent of ICA stenosis near the origin. A total of 117 common carotid artery bifurcations were reviewed. A "significant" stenosis was defined arbitrarily as >40% (to detect lesions before they become hemodynamically significant) of luminal diameter on CTA using NASCET-like criteria. All "significant" stenoses (21 out of 117 carotid bifurcations) had measurable calcium. We found a relatively strong correlation between percent stenosis and the calcium volume (Pearson's r = 0.65, P<0.0001). We also found that there was an even stronger correlation between the square root of the calcium volume and the percent stenosis as measured by CTA (r= 0.77, P<0.0001). Calcium volumes of 0.01, 0.03, 0.06, 0.09 and 0.12 cc were used as thresholds to evaluate for a "significant" stenosis. A receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve demonstrated that thresholds of 0.06 cc (sensitivity 88%, specificity 87%) and 0.03 cc (sensitivity 94%, specificity 76%) generated the best combinations of sensitivity and specificity. Hence, this preliminary study demonstrates a relatively strong relationship between volume of calcium at the carotid bifurcation in the neck (measured by CT) and percent stenosis of the ICA below the skull base (as measured by CTA). Use of calcium volume measurements as a threshold may be both sensitive and specific for the detection of significant ICA stenosis. The significance of the correlation between calcium volume and ICA stenosis is that potentially a "score" can be obtained that will identify those at risk for high grade carotid stenosis.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Calcinosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Calcium / analysis*
  • Carotid Artery, Common / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carotid Artery, Internal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carotid Stenosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Contrast Media
  • Coronary Angiography / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • ROC Curve
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, Spiral Computed / methods
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Triiodobenzoic Acids


  • Contrast Media
  • Triiodobenzoic Acids
  • ioversol
  • Calcium