Point: uses of carotid plaque measurement as a predictor of cardiovascular events

Prev Cardiol. Spring 2005;8(2):118-21; discussion 126. doi: 10.1111/j.1520-037x.2005.03908.x.


Vascular prevention is most cost-effective in high-risk patients, but secondary prevention misses many opportunities. The high-risk strategy- identifying patients with high levels of risk factors-is problematic because traditional risk factors predict only half of vascular events. In multiple regression, traditional risk factors explained only half of carotid atherosclerosis. New strategies are being explored, such as electron-beam computerized tomographic measurement of coronary calcification, to identify high-risk patients. Carotid plaque is a powerful tool for identifying and managing high-risk vascular patients, as it explains twice as much of unexplained vascular risk as coronary calcium by electron beam computerized tomography, and it has significant advantages compared with intimal-medial thickness. After adjustment for risk factors, patients in the highest quartile of baseline plaque area have 3.5 times the risk of stroke, death, or myocardial infarction compared with those in the lowest quartile. Those with regression or stable plaque have half the risk of those with progression after adjustment for the same panel of risk factors. The therapeutic target is plaque regression or stabilization, not just control of traditional risk factors. Trying to treat arteries without measuring plaque is like trying to treat hypertension without measuring the pressure, or hyperlipidemia without measuring the lipids.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Carotid Arteries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography