Background and Purpose - Complicated (irregular or ulcerated) carotid plaques have proven to be independent predictors of stroke. We analyzed the frequency and location of plaque irregularities in a large cohort of patients with ischemic cerebrovascular disease and the relation with severity of stenosis, cardiovascular risk factors, and symptomatology. Methods - Multidetector CT angiography images from 406 patients were evaluated. Plaque surface morphology was classified as smooth, irregular, or ulcerated. The location of the ulceration was defined as proximal or distal to the point of maximum stenosis. Results - Atherosclerotic plaques with an open lumen were present in 448 carotid arteries; these plaques were classified as: smooth, 276 (62%); irregular, 99 (22%); and ulcerated, 73 (16%). Sixty-two (69%) of the ulcerations were located proximal to the point of maximum luminal stenosis. Complicated plaques were significantly (P<0.001) more common in carotid arteries with stenosis >30% than in those with stenosis <30%. There is an association between complicated plaques and hypercholesterolemia (OR, 3.0) and a trend toward an association with smoking (OR, 1.9). Complicated plaques are more often present in the symptomatic carotid artery than in the contralateral asymptomatic carotid artery; however, this is fully attributed to a significantly higher degree of stenosis in the symptomatic arteries. Conclusions - Multidetector CT angiography allows the classification of atherosclerotic carotid plaque surface. Complicated plaques are frequent in atherosclerotic carotid disease, especially with higher stenosis degree. Ulcerations are mostly located in the proximal part of the atherosclerotic plaque. Hypercholesterolemia and smoking are related with the presence of complicated plaques.

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Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

de Weert, T., Cretier, S., Groen, H., Homburg, P., Cakir, H., Wentzel, J., … van der Lugt, A. (2009). Atherosclerotic plaque surface morphology in the carotid bifurcation assessed with multidetector computed tomography angiography. Stroke, 40(4), 1334–1340. doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.108.538439