Background: In order to define the morphological variants involved in carotid elongation in terms of their clinical implications, we have analysed the prevalence of morphological alterations in patients routinely subjected to carotid colour duplex ultrasonography evaluation.
Methods: From January 1, 1993 to June 30, 1996, 3300 subjects were examined for central nervous system symptoms (41% of cases) or for screening related to ischaemic heart disease, lower limb arterial disease, hypertension or major dyslipidaemia (59% of cases). The chi(2)-test was used for statistical analysis.
Results: Morphological alterations increased with age. While kinking was more prevalent in females (female:male ratio 58% vs 42%), sharp kinking was significantly more frequent in males (39% vs 15%, p<0.001). Atheromatous plaques predominated in males (79% vs 46%, p<0.001), as well as cases with haemodynamically significant involvement (16% vs 7%, p<0.001). In patients with kinking there was a prevalence of haemodynamically significant lesions (chi(2)=52.7, p<0.001). A possible link between conformational abnormalities and hypertension appeared highly significant owing to a very different prevalence of high blood pressure in the group of subjects with kinking (chi(2)=239, p<0.001). We did not find a significant association between major neurological symptoms and the presence of kinking (chi(2)=0.215, p=0.643), but we found an association with transient ischaemic attacks (chi(2)=6.9, p<0.01).
Conclusions: Conformational abnormalities like kinking, seem much more prevalent in subjects suffering from arterial hypertension. Even though high blood pressure is an important risk factor for transient ischaemic attacks, it is possible that the prevalence of atheromatous lesions and the flow turbulence linked to kinking may also play a role in their pathophysiology.