Carotid plaque compared with intima-media thickness as a predictor of coronary and cerebrovascular disease

Curr Cardiol Rep. 2009 Jan;11(1):21-7. doi: 10.1007/s11886-009-0004-1.


Atherosclerosis is the underlying cause of most myocardial infarction (MI) and ischemic strokes. B-mode ultrasound of carotid arteries provides measures of intima-media thickness (IMT) and plaques, both widely used as surrogate measures of cardiovascular disease. Although IMT and plaques are highly intercorrelated, IMT's role as a marker of atherosclerosis has been questioned, especially when measurements include the common carotid artery (CCA) only. Plaque and intima-media thickening may reflect different biological aspects of atherogenesis with distinctive relations to clinical vascular disease. Plaque measured in the carotid bulb or internal carotid artery is stronger related to hyperlipidemia and smoking and is a stronger predictor for MI, whereas CCA-IMT is stronger related to hypertension and ischemic stroke. Echolucent plaque morphology (ie, lipid-rich plaques) seems to increase the risk for MI and stroke. New evidence suggests that total plaque area is the most strongly predictive of cardiovascular risk of the ultrasound phenotypes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carotid Stenosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Carotid Stenosis / pathology*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / etiology*
  • Tunica Intima / diagnostic imaging
  • Tunica Intima / pathology*
  • Tunica Media / diagnostic imaging
  • Tunica Media / pathology*
  • Ultrasonography