Background: Carotid stenosis is an important, treatable cause of stroke. Several population-based studies have shown ethnic differences in the prevalence of carotid atherosclerosis. This study was performed at a large multiethnic hospital to clarify these differences.
Methods: One thousand six carotid artery ultrasounds performed by the Department of Radiology at Los Angeles County General Hospital over a 4-year period were reviewed. Patients were classified as Caucasian (n=151), Hispanic (n=515), Black (n=173), or Asian (n=167) by self-declaration and birthplace. Carotid stenosis was defined as mild (1% to 39%), moderate (40% to 59%), severe (60% to 79%), critical (80% to 99%), or total (100%).
Results: Twenty and one-half percent of Caucasian patients had greater than 59% stenosis compared with 10.1% of Hispanics, 8.7% of Blacks, and 10.7% of Asians (P<0.001). Nine and two-tenths percent of Caucasians had greater than 79% stenosis compared with 4.3% of Hispanics, 2.9% of Blacks, and 2.8% of Asians (P<0.001). There were no significant differences in age or gender representations between ethnic groups, and the indications for ordering carotid duplex sonography also did not vary by race. Caucasians and Blacks had a higher prevalence of cardiac disease, smoking, and heavy alcohol abuse. Hispanics had higher rates of diabetes.
Conclusions: These results indicate that significant differences in the degree of carotid stenosis exist among ethnic groups. Caucasian patients in our series showed a statistically higher likelihood of having a severe or critical level of stenosis. These findings may have implications for the allocation of health care resources as ethnic minorities compose a greater proportion of the population.