Carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) is regarded as a controversial risk marker for cardiovascular disease (CVD). We aimed to evaluate the role of CIMT and carotid plaque progression as predictors for the progression of coronary plaque and compositions.
In the Garlic 4 study, asymptomatic patients with intermediate CVD risk (Framingham risk score 6–20%) were recruited for a serial carotid ultrasound, and coronary artery calcium score (CAC)/coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA) studies for subclinical atherosclerosis at a baseline and 1 year. The association between progression of quantitatively measured coronary plaque compositions and the progression of CIMT/carotid plaque was analyzed. A P value <0.05 is considered as statistically significant.
Forty-seven consecutive patients were included. The mean age was 58.5 ± 6.6 years, and 69.1 % were male. New carotid plaque appeared in 34.0 % (n = 16) of participants, and 55.3 % (n = 26) of subjects had coronary plaque progression. In multilinear regression analysis, adjusted by age, gender, and statin use, the development of new carotid plaque was significantly associated with an increase in noncalcified coronary plaque [β (SE) 2.0 (0.9); P = 0.025] and necrotic core plaque (1.7 (0.6); P = 0.009). In contrast, CIMT progression was not associated with the progression of coronary plaque, or coronary artery calcium (CAC) (P = NS).
Compared to CIMT, carotid plaque is a better indicator of coronary plaque progression. The appearance of a new carotid plaque is associated with significant progression of necrotic core and noncalcified plaque, which are high-risk coronary plaque components.