Carotid plaque and intima-media thickness assessed by b-mode ultrasonography in subjects ranging from young adults to centenarians

S Homma, N Hirose, H Ishida, T Ishii, G Araki
Stroke; a Journal of Cerebral Circulation 2001, 32 (4): 830-5

UNLABELLED: BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE-To investigate relationships among plaque formation, increasing intima-media thickness, and age, we examined ultrasonographically carotid arteries of subjects who had no major atherosclerotic risk factors and who ranged in age from young adults to centenarians.

METHODS: We studied 319 healthy subjects (154 men, 165 women; age range, 21 to 105 years) with no history of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, or atherosclerotic disease. Mean intima-media wall thickness (IMT) of common carotid arteries at plaque-free sites and prevalence of plaques were evaluated by B-mode ultrasound.

RESULTS: Mean common carotid IMT increased in a linear manner with age for all decades of life, including centenarians [IMT=(0.009xAge)+0.116] (r=0.83). In centenarians (n=30), intima-media complexes were diffusely thickened (mean IMT, 1.01 mm). Plaque prevalence increased up to the tenth decade of life (83.3%, n=30) but decreased in centenarians (60.0%). IMT and plaque prevalence were closely associated in the seventh and eighth decades of life but not at older ages.

CONCLUSIONS: The present study indicates that increased IMT is a physiological effect of aging that corresponds to diffuse intimal thickening, especially in very elderly persons, and that IMT is distinct from pathological plaque formation.

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