Asymptomatic Internal Carotid Artery Stenosis Defined by Ultrasound and the Risk of Subsequent Stroke in the Elderly: The Cardiovascular Health Study

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Background and Purpose

We sought in this study to relate carotid ultrasound findings in asymptomatic older adults to the 5-year risk of various cerebrovascular outcomes used in the Asymptomatic Carotid Atherosclerosis Study (ACAS).


The Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS) is a longitudinal study of people 65 years and older. Analyses of internal carotid artery stenosis defined by multiple different cutoffs of peak systolic velocity, rather than one particular cutoff, were performed in the 5441 participants who underwent carotid ultrasound and lacked a history of transient ischemic attack or stroke. The 5-year risks of 7 cerebrovascular disease outcomes used in ACAS were estimated for each cutoff.


Associations with the 5-year risk of outcomes were substantially elevated only at cutoffs with high peak systolic velocities. In this population, the number of people with such high velocities was small. For example, with a cutoff of approximately 2.5 m/s, suggesting a stenosis of >70%, the 5-year risk of an ipsilateral fatal or nonfatal stroke was 5%, and only 0.5% of the group had velocities at least this high.


In a group of older adults likely to participate in a screening program, as evidenced by willingness to participate in CHS, high peak systolic velocities consistent with high-grade carotid stenosis were uncommon and risk of subsequent cerebrovascular disease outcomes was relatively low. These findings do not suggest that similar populations of older adults would benefit from a program using ultrasound to screen for asymptomatic carotid stenosis. (Stroke. 1998;29:2371-2376.)

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