Wasserman BA, Wityk RJ, Trout HH 3rd, Virmani R.
The Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The management of carotid atherosclerosis is well-established for symptomatic stenosis above 69%, but the optimal approach for managing lower degrees of narrowing remains uncertain. Because the risk of stroke increases with higher grades of stenosis, we are inclined to consider low-grade disease to be low risk. This approach, however, does not take into account other factors such as plaque size or composition. Plaque may progress to a substantial size before it demonstrates significant stenosis by angiography. We know that low-grade disease can result in cerebrovascular ischemic events, but predicting vulnerable lesions has not been possible by relying on stenosis alone.
SUMMARY OF REVIEW: An understanding of the clinical behavior of plaque causing little to no narrowing is now possible with the advent of high-resolution black blood MRI, a modality that does not rely on luminal narrowing for detection.
CONCLUSIONS: Authors present the current understanding of the clinical implications of low-grade carotid stenosis with an example of the MRI assessment of high-risk carotid plaque causing minimal narrowing that highlights the importance of looking beyond the lumen.
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