Evaluation of Computed Tomography Angiography Plaque Thickness Measurements in High-Grade Carotid Artery Stenosis
Background and Purpose Increasing evidence suggests that carotid artery imaging can identify vulnerable plaque elements that increase stroke risk. We correlated recently proposed markers, soft and hard plaque thickness measurements on axial computed tomography angiography source images, with symptomatic disease status (ipsilateral stroke or transient ischemic attack) in high-grade carotid disease. Methods Soft plaque and hard plaque thickness were measured with a recently validated technique using computed tomography angiography source images in subjects with 70% extracranial carotid artery stenosis. Logistic regression analyses were used to assess the strength of association between soft and hard plaque thickness measurements and previous stroke or transient ischemic attack. Receiver operating characteristic analysis was also performed. Results Compared with asymptomatic subjects, those with symptomatic carotid disease had significantly larger soft plaque and total plaque thickness measurements and smaller hard plaque thickness measurements. Each 1-mm increase in soft plaque resulted in a 2.7 times greater odds of previous stroke or transient ischemic attack. Soft plaque thickness measurements provided excellent discrimination between symptomatic and asymptomatic disease, with receiver operating characteristic analysis showing an area under the curve of 0.90. A cutoff of 3.5-mm maximum soft plaque thickness provided a sensitivity of 81%, specificity of 83%, positive predictive value of 85%, and a negative predictive value of 78%. Conclusions Increasing maximum soft plaque thickness measurements are strongly associated with symptomatic disease status in carotid artery stenosis. Prospective validation of these results may translate into a widely accessible stroke risk stratification tool in high-grade carotid artery atherosclerotic disease.
School of Medicine