Measurement of carotid intima-media thickness to assess progression and regression of atherosclerosis

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SUMMARYImaging modalities have been developed to assess atherosclerosis in vivo in the arterial wall because large clinical end-point studies are time-consuming and costly. Historically, in-hospital angiography and Doppler ultrasonography have been used to assess atherosclerosis development. Investigations of the arterial lumen are, however, increasingly being replaced by modalities that can measure changes in the arterial wall itself-intravascular ultrasonography, MRI and multislice CT. The fact that intravascular ultrasonography is invasive, CT involves substantial radiation exposure and requires contrast agents, and that MRI is time-consuming and technically challenging all limit the widespread use of these techniques. Moreover, all modalities have high associated costs. B-mode ultrasonographic imaging of the carotid arterial walls occupies a unique position in atherosclerosis research. This method enables sensitive, reproducible and noninvasive assessment of intima-media thickness (IMT) as a continuous variable. Epidemiological and clinical trial evidence as well as digitization and standardization have made carotid IMT a validated and accepted marker for generalized atherosclerosis burden and vascular disease risk. Here we describe the application of carotid IMT measurements as a tool in risk evaluation of individuals and in studies of atherosclerosis progression and regression.

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