Purpose: To investigate the association between incident (first) stroke and the echogenicity of internal carotid arterial plaque at ultrasonography (US).
Materials and methods: A cohort of 4, 886 individuals who, at baseline, were 65 years of age or older and without symptoms of cerebrovascular disease was followed up for an average of 3.3 years. Baseline clinical findings were from color Doppler and duplex US studies of the carotid arteries and a record of traditional risk factors: age, sex, presence of diabetes mellitus, pack-years of cigarette smoking, presence of hypertension, elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressure, elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level.
Results: Incident strokes, excluding hemorrhagic strokes and strokes of cardiac origin, were seen in 104 individuals (2.1%) at risk. Age- and sex-adjusted odds ratios for incident stroke were significant for hypoechoic plaque (odds ratio, 2.53; 95% CI, 1,42,4.53). After controlling for risk factors in a Cox proportional hazards model, the relative risk (RR) of incident stroke was 1.72 (p = .015) for hypoechoic plaque and 2.32 (P = .004) for internal carotid arterial narrowing of at least 50%. In addition, hypoechoic plaque (RR, 2.78; CI, 1.36,5.69) and 50%-100% stenosis (RR, 3.08; CI, 1.28, 7.41) were associated with ipsilateral, nonfatal stroke.
Conclusion: In asymptomatic adults aged 65 years or older, that risk of incident stroke was associated with two US features: hypoechoic internal carotid arterial plaque and an estimated internal carotid arterial stenosis of 50%-100%.