Correlation of carotid artery reactivity with cardiovascular risk factors and coronary artery vasodilator responses in asymptomatic, healthy volunteers

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Carotid artery reactivity (CAR%), involving carotid artery diameter responses to a cold pressor test (CPT), is a noninvasive measure of conduit artery function in humans. This study examined the impact of age and cardiovascular risk factors on the CAR% and the relationship between CAR% and coronary artery vasodilator responses to the CPT.


Ultrasound was used to measure resting and peak carotid artery diameters during the CPT, with CAR% being calculated as the relative change from baseline (%). We compared CAR% between young (n = 50, 24 ± 3 years) and older participants (n = 44, 61 ± 8 years), and subsequently assessed relationships between CAR% and traditional cardiovascular risk factors in 50 participants (44 ± 21 years). Subsequently, we compared left anterior descending (LAD) artery velocity (using transthoracic Doppler) with carotid artery diameter (i.e. CAR%) during the CPT (n = 33, 37 ± 17 years).


A significantly larger CAR% was found in young versus older healthy participants (4.1 ± 3.7 versus 1.8 ± 2.6, P < 0.001). Participants without cardiovascular risk factors demonstrated a higher CAR% than those with at least two risk factors (2.9 ± 2.9 versus 0.5 ± 2.9, P  = 0.019). Carotid artery diameter and LAD velocity increased during CPT (P < 0.001). Carotid diameter and change in velocity correlated with LAD velocity (r = 0.486 and 0.402, P < 0.004 and 0.02, respectively).


Older age and cardiovascular risk factors are related to lower CAR%, while CAR% shows good correlation with coronary artery responses to the CPT. Therefore, CAR% may represent a valuable technique to assess cardiovascular risk, while CAR% seems to reflect coronary artery vasodilator function.

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