Carotid Intima-Media Thickness for Atherosclerosis

J Atheroscler Thromb. 2016;23(1):18-31. doi: 10.5551/jat.31989. Epub 2015 Oct 13.


The carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) is a widely used surrogate marker for atherosclerosis worldwide. The carotid IMT can be simply, noninvasively, and reproducibly measured through B-mode carotid ultrasound. The carotid IMT is also a strong predictor of future cerebral and cardiovascular events. In addition, regressions of increased carotid IMT by lipid-lowering and antihypertensive drugs have been reported. Despite the strong association between increased carotid IMT and cardiovascular disease, it remains unclear whether routine carotid IMT measurement is useful for the detection of subclinical atherosclerosis in clinical practice. Researches should consider other methodological aspects, such as the definition of carotid plaques, the choice of measurement sites on the common or internal carotid artery, and the assessment of maximum or minimum IMT. The detailed guidelines for measuring carotid IMT vary by county. Thus, the usefulness of the carotid IMT may be assessed in different countries taking racial differences into account. Other important parameters revealed by carotid ultrasound, such as artery stenosis and the characteristics and size of plaques, should also be considered. Physicians should comprehensively interpret the results of carotid ultrasonography. Therefore, carotid ultrasonography is an essential tool for assessing cardiovascular risk in clinical settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atherosclerosis / diagnosis*
  • Atherosclerosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Atherosclerosis / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Carotid Intima-Media Thickness*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Diseases / metabolism*
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers