A Comparison of Ultrasound Measurements to Assess Carotid Atherosclerosis Development in Subjects with and without Type 2 Diabetes

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Cardiovascular Ultrasound





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Background: Subjects with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk of vascular complications. The use of carotid ultrasound remains an attractive, non-invasive method to monitor atherosclerotic disease progression and/or response to treatment in patients with type 2 diabetes, with intima-media thickness routinely used as the gold standard to detect pathology. However, alternative measurements, such as plaque area or volume, may represent a potentially more powerful approach. Thus, the objective of this study was to compare the traditional intima-media thickness measurement against the novel total plaque volume measurement in analyzing carotid atherosclerosis development in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Methods: The case-control study included 49 Oji-Cree adults with diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance, aged 21-69, and 49 sex- and age-matched normoglycemic subjects. At baseline, metabolic variables were measured, including body mass index, waist circumference, total cholesterol: high density lipoprotein ratio, plasma triglycerides, plasma glucose, and serum insulin. Carotid ultrasound measurements, 7 years later, assessed carotid arterial intima-media thickness and total plaque volume.

Results: At baseline, the two groups were well matched for smoking habits, hypertension, body mass index, and waist circumference. Differences were noted in baseline measurements of total cholesterol:high density lipoprotein (P = 0.0006), plasma triglycerides (P < 0.0001) and fasting glucose (P < 0.0001). After seven years, carotid ultrasound scans revealed that total plaque volume measurements (P = 0.037), but not intima-media thickness measurements, were higher in subjects with diabetes/impaired glucose tolerance compared to the normoglycemic controls. Correlation between intima-media thickness and total plaque volume was moderate. Based on our study findings, to achieve power levels > 0.70 when comparing intima-media thickness measurements for diabetics versus non-diabetics, thousands of study subjects are required. For comparing total plaque volume measurements, only hundreds of study subjects are required.

Conclusion: The development of atherosclerotic plaque is greater in subjects with diabetes/impaired glucose tolerance. Total plaque volume appears to capture the atherosclerotic disease burden more effectively in subjects with type 2 diabetes, and would be an appropriate outcome measure for studies aimed at changing the diabetic milieu.