High-Intensity Signal in Carotid Plaque on Routine 3D-TOF-MRA Is a Risk Factor of Ischemic Stroke

Cerebrovasc Dis. 2016;41(1-2):13-8. doi: 10.1159/000441094. Epub 2015 Nov 19.


Background: Carotid atherosclerotic disease is recognized as an important risk factor for brain ischemic events. However, high-grade stenosis does not always cause ischemic strokes, whereas moderate-grade stenosis may often cause ischemic strokes. It has been reported that there is an association between carotid intraplaque hemorrhage (IPH) and new cerebral ischemic events. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the relationship between high-intensity signals (HIS) on maximum intensity projection (MIP) images from routine 3-dimensional time-of-flight magnetic resonance angiography (3D-TOF-MRA) and prior ischemic strokes in the patients with moderate carotid stenosis.

Materials and methods: Sixty-one patients with moderate carotid artery stenosis (50-69% stenosis based on North American Symptomatic Carotid Endarterectomy Trial criteria) were included. Carotid IPH was defined as the presence of HIS in carotid plaques on MIP images detected by 3D-TOF-MRA using criteria we previously reported. We analyzed the relationship between the presence of HIS in plaques and prior ischemic strokes defined as ischemic lesions on diffusion-weighted brain images.

Results: HIS in carotid plaques were present in 27 (44%) of 61 patients. Prior ipsilateral ischemic strokes occurred more frequently in the HIS-positive group than the HIS-negative group (67 vs. 9%, p < 0.001). Furthermore, there were more smokers in the group with ischemic stroke than without it (62 vs. 25%, p = 0.005). In multivariate logistic regression analysis, HIS in carotid plaque (OR 23.4, 95% CI 4.62-118.3, p < 0.001) and smoking (OR 5.44, 95% CI 1.20-24.6, p = 0.028) were independent determinants of prior ischemic strokes after adjustment for age.

Conclusions: HIS in carotid plaques on 3D-TOF-MRA MIP images are independent determinants of prior ischemic strokes in patients with moderate carotid artery stenosis, and they can potentially provide a reliable risk stratification of patients with moderate carotid artery stenosis.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Ischemia / complications
  • Brain Ischemia / epidemiology*
  • Carotid Stenosis / epidemiology*
  • Carotid Stenosis / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Logistic Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • Male
  • Phosphotransferases (Alcohol Group Acceptor)
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Stroke / epidemiology*
  • Stroke / etiology


  • AGK protein, human
  • Phosphotransferases (Alcohol Group Acceptor)