Aortic versus carotid intima-media thickness and impact of aortic valve disease

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Abstract

Background and aims

Intima-media thickness is a marker for atherosclerosis but is also influenced by shear stress and flow. We evaluated the relation between intima-media thickness of the descending aorta (AoIMT) and the common carotid artery (CIMT) in patients with and without severe aortic valve disease (sAVD).

Methods

A total of 310 patients (233 with sAVD, 77 without) were examined with regard to AoIMT and CIMT using transesophageal echocardiography and carotid ultrasound, respectively, before valvular and/or aortic surgery. Digitally stored B-mode images were used for semiautomatic AoIMT and CIMT measurements.

Results

There were no significant differences in patients with or without sAVD with regard to AoIMT (1·35 ± 0·31 vs. 1·35 ± 0·33 mm) or CIMT (0·80 ± 0·15 vs. 0·78 ± 0·16 mm). The correlations between AoIMT and CIMT were r = 0·29 in patients with and r = 0·51 in patients without sAVD, and the difference between these correlations was significant (P<0·05). In multivariate regression, age was the main determinant for AoIMT and CIMT in both groups, further in sAVD, the aortic mean pressure gradient (Pmean) was a determinant of AoIMT, but not of CIMT.

Conclusions

The correlation between CIMT and AoIMT is weaker in patients with sAVD compared to those without sAVD. Pmean is also a significant predictor of AoIMT, but not of CIMT. This implies that, in addition to the atherosclerotic process, turbulent aortic flow or altered blood flow helicity created by large stroke volumes and diastolic flow reversal or high-velocity jets, affect the intima-media of the descending aorta and common carotid artery differently.

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