Last updated on May 2018

The Role of Large Artery Plaque Imaging Features in Predicting Inflammation and Cognition


Brief description of study

The invesigators propose a clinical study on patients undergoing carotid surgery (endarterectomy). The invesigators will determine carotid artery imaging features associated with (1) vessel wall inflammation, (2) downstream brain inflammation, and (3) cognitive benefit from surgery. This project will uncover links between inflamed carotid plaque and downstream brain inflammation. The invesigators will also determine carotid plaque imaging features predicting cognitive benefit from carotid surgery.

Detailed Study Description

This research is directed at a major stroke source, the carotid artery, a major vessel that supplies blood to the brain. It has long been known that carotid narrowing is an important stroke risk factor. However, many patients with narrow carotids do not have strokes, and many patients with seemingly normal carotids have strokes. MRI research now suggests that the carotid wall itself is the stroke source. Using carotid MRI, clinicians can identify previously invisible markers of unstable carotid plaque, including carotid wall bleeds (intraplaque hemorrhage). The working hypothesis is that patients with these unstable carotid plaques may have higher inflammation in both their carotid arteries and brain. This inflammation has been implicated in other diseases, including dementia.

Carotid wall bleeds can easily be seen with carotid MRI, but are often invisible on ultrasound and CT scans. By using MRI, the invesigators have found that this silent killer is an important stroke risk factor even without carotid narrowing. Now that imaging can detect carotid wall bleeds, where do the bleeds come from? Recent research points to inflammation within the carotid wall. The invesigators plan to use histology to detect this inflammation in the vessel wall. Another question is, does inflammation in the carotid wall lead to inflammation in the brain? Using PET scans, the invesigators plan to determine whether inflammation in the brain is linked to carotid disease. Lastly, the invesigators hope to find out if carotid wall inflammation contributes to memory loss and if surgery is beneficial in these patients.

The invesigators hope to detect this inflammation in the vessel wall and brain before patients develop stroke, memory loss and dementia. This will be of huge benefit not only in the detection of diseases, but would also allow clinicians to monitor treatment effect on both carotid disease and brain inflammation. The invesigators also hope to use these tools to detect early treatment response. This research will accelerate the pace of future clinical trials to bring important new medications to patients sooner.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03068442

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