Background and purpose: B-mode ultrasound imaging affords the opportunity to quantify both intimal-medial thickness (IMT) and lumen diameter of extracranial carotid arteries in ambulatory populations. Since the relation of IMT to lumen diameter may be complex, we asked whether cardiovascular disease risk factors (previously shown to be associated with greater arterial IMT) are related to smaller lumen diameters.
Methods: We used B-mode ultrasound to quantify lumen diameter, interadventitial diameter, and IMT of the extracranial carotid arteries and assessed the relationship of these measures to body mass index, smoking, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes in 6088 male and 7493 female participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) cohort.
Results: Smoking, hypertension, and LDL cholesterol were consistently related to greater IMT in the common and internal carotid arteries of men and women, as has been previously reported. In the internal carotid artery, smoking, hypertension, and LDL cholesterol were consistently related to smaller lumens. In the common carotid artery, body mass index, smoking, and hypertension were related to significantly larger, and LDL cholesterol to smaller, lumens. Thus, only LDL cholesterol was consistently associated with smaller lumens in both the common and internal carotid arteries.
Conclusions: Risk factors relate positively to IMT in both the common and internal carotid arteries and inversely with lumen diameter in the internal carotid artery, in parallel with their relation to clinical events. However, their association with lumen diameters of the common carotid artery in population-based samples is more complex, and in some cases adverse levels of risk factors may be associated with larger lumens.