The Protective Effect of Middle Cerebral Artery Calcification on Symptomatic Middle Cerebral Artery Infarction

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Background and Purpose—

The presence of intracranial artery calcification is associated with an increased risk for stroke. However, calcified atherosclerotic plaques are also known to be less vulnerable to rupture. Given this discrepancy, we investigated whether the vulnerability of intracranial arterial atherosclerosis differed based on the presence or absence of calcification.


We considered consecutive patients with acute stroke in the unilateral middle cerebral artery (MCA) territory. Patients with any stenotic MCAs were included in this study. Symptomatic MCA was defined as the occurrence of infarctions relevant to the stenotic MCA. The presence of calcification in the MCA was evaluated on noncontrast thin-section computed tomography images using a 3dimensional software package. Generalized estimating equations were used to compare the frequency of calcification between symptomatic and asymptomatic stenosis.


Of the 1066 MCAs examined in 533 patients, 645 MCAs were stenotic and were included in the study. Among the 645 stenotic MCAs, 406 MCAs (62.9%) were symptomatic. Calcification was observed in 36 MCAs (5.6%). Calcification in the MCA was more frequently observed in the asymptomatic group (7.9% versus 4.2%; P=0.032). On multivariable analysis, the presence of calcification in MCA atherosclerosis was less frequent in the symptomatic group (odds ratio, 0.46; 95% confidence interval, 0.23–0.92; P=0.027).


This study showed that calcified atherosclerosis in the MCA was less frequently symptomatic.

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