Ultrasonographic assessment of carotid wall characteristics and cognitive functions in a community sample of 59- to 71-year-olds. The EVA Study Group

A Auperin, C Berr, C Bonithon-Kopp, P J Touboul, I Ruelland, P Ducimetiere, A Alperovitch
Stroke; a Journal of Cerebral Circulation 1996, 27 (8): 1290-5

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: This study was aimed at analyzing cross-sectional relationships between cognitive performance and ultrasonographic assessment of carotid wall characteristics.

METHODS: A cohort of 1279 subjects (men, 41%) aged 59 to 71 years was recruited from the electoral rolls of the city of Nantes (western France). Cognitive performances were evaluated with the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and seven neuropsychological tests assessing attention, psychomotor rapidity, verbal abilities, memory, and visuospatial perception. For each test, subjects were classified into three performance levels with a quartile distribution: 25% highest, 25% lowest, and 50% middle. The intima-media thickness of common carotid arteries and the presence of plaques in the carotid arteries were assessed with B-mode ultrasound examination.

RESULTS: Only 28% of men and 17% of women had carotid plaques inducing moderate stenosis of the lumen ( < 40%). After adjustment for possible confounders, odds ratios for poor cognitive performance associated with plaques were above 1 for all cognitive tests in men. This association was statistically significant for the MMSE and another test assessing attention skills. There was a slight association between increase of the common carotid intima-media thickness and poor cognitive scores in men with plaques. In women, no association was found between cognitive functions and presence of plaques or intima-media thickness.

CONCLUSIONS: This study indicated a moderate association between atherosclerosis of the carotid arteries and poor cognitive functioning in men aged 59 to 71 years. In view of these moderate cross-sectional results, further studies are required to better assess the relationship between carotid atherosclerosis and cognitive impairment.

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