Arterial Stiffness as a Biomarker of Radiation-Induced Carotid Atherosclerosis

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Arterial stiffness is thought to be a precursor to atherosclerosis. Conventional arterial stiffness parameters as potential biomarkers of radiation-induced damage were investigated. Patients with head and neck cancer treated with radiotherapy ≥2 years previously to one side of the neck were included. The unirradiated side was the internal control. Beta stiffness index (B) and elastic modulus (Ep) were used to assess arterial stiffness and were measured in proximal, mid, and distal common carotid artery (CCA) and compared with the corresponding unirradiated segments. Fifty patients (68% male; median age 58 years; interquartile range 50-62) were included. Mean ± standard deviation maximum doses to irradiated and unirradiated arteries were 53 ± 13 and 1.9 ± 3.7 Gy, respectively. Differences in B were not significant. Significant differences in Ep were demonstrated—proximal CCA: 1301 ± 1223 versus 801 ± 492 (P < .0001), mid CCA: 1064 ± 818 versus 935.5 ± 793 (P < .0001), and distal CCA: 1267 ± 1084 versus 775.3 ± 551.9 (P < .0001). Surgery had no impact on arterial stiffness. Arterial stiffness is increased in irradiated arteries, in keeping with radiation-induced damage. Prospective data may show an association between arterial stiffness and atherosclerosis in this setting.

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