Association between asymptomatic carotid atherosclerosis and degenerative aortic stenosis

Giuseppina Novo, Francesco Paolo Guarneri, Giovanni Ferro, Rosario Russo, Khalil Fattouch, Salvatore Novo
Atherosclerosis 2012, 223 (2): 519-22

OBJECTIVE: Degenerative aortic stenosis shows similarities with atherosclerosis. To confirm the hypothesis that aortic stenosis is an "atherosclerosis-like" disease, we investigated the association between degenerative aortic stenosis and atherosclerosis of carotid arteries.

METHODS: We studied 270 consecutive patients, 135 with degenerative aortic stenosis (trans-aortic peak velocity ≥ 2 m/sec) and other 135 subjects without aortic valve disease. All patients underwent echocardiography and ultrasound scan of the supra-aortic trunks to assess the presence of plaque and/or intima-media thickening (IMT).

RESULTS: Atherosclerosis of carotid arteries (IMT and plaque) was significantly more frequent in patients with aortic stenosis than in controls (95.5% vs. 66.6%, p < 0.0001). The same result was confirmed as concerns carotid plaques (69.6% vs. 42.2%, p < 0.0001). In addition, there was a significant association between aortic stenosis and degenerative carotid plaque (OR = 3.13; 95% C.I. = 1.90-5.17). Thus the presence of a linear correlation between the trans-aortic peak velocity of the cases and the thickness of the plaques and IMT was evaluated by calculating the coefficient of correlation (R = 0.15 for plaque and R = 0.53 for IMT).

CONCLUSIONS: The presence of carotid atherosclerosis is associated with degenerative aortic stenosis and the severity of aortic stenosis corresponds to an increase of the thickness of plaque and IMT. This relationship is quite new. Our result strengthens the pathogenetic hypothesis "atherosclerosis-like" of degenerative aortic stenosis and suggest the ultrasound scan as a non invasive method for risk stratification in patient with aortic stenosis, with therapeutic implications especially for higher risk subgroups.

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