The purpose of the present study was to investigate the association between carotid artery (CA) expansive remodeling (ER) and symptoms of cerebral ischemia.
One hundred twenty-two consecutive CAs scheduled for CA endarterectomy (CEA) or CA stent placement (CAS) were retrospectively studied. After excluding 22 CAs (2 were contraindicated for MRI, 8 had near-occlusion, 6 had poor image quality, and 6 had restenosis after CEA or CAS), there were 100 CAs (100 patients) included in the final analysis. The study included 50 symptomatic patients (mean age 73.6 ± 8.9 years, 6 women, mean stenosis 68.5% ± 21.3%) and 50 asymptomatic patients (mean age 72.0 ± 5.9 years, 5 women, mean stenosis 79.4% ± 8.85%). Expansive remodeling was defined as enlargement of the internal carotid artery (ICA) with outward plaque growth. The ER ratio was calculated by dividing the maximum distance between the lumen and the outer borders of the plaque perpendicular to the axis of the ICA by the maximal luminal diameter of the distal ICA at a region unaffected by atherosclerosis using long-axis, high-resolution MRI.
The ER ratio of the atherosclerotic CA was significantly greater than that of normal physiological expansion (carotid bulb; p < 0.01). The ER ratio of symptomatic CA stenosis (median 1.94, interquartile range [IQR] 1.58–2.23) was significantly greater than that of asymptomatic CA stenosis (median 1.52, IQR 1.34–1.81; p = 0.0001). When the cutoff value of the ER ratio was set to 1.88, the sensitivity and specificity to detect symptoms were 0.6 and 0.78, respectively. The ER ratio of symptomatic patients was consistently high regardless of the degree of stenosis.
There was a significant correlation between ER ratio and ischemic symptoms. The ER ratio might be a potential indicator of vulnerable plaque, which requires further validation by prospective observational study of asymptomatic patients.