Carotid Artery Stenosis and Progression of Hemispheric Brain Atrophy: The SMART-MR Study

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INTRODUCTION: It has been hypothesized that carotid artery stenosis (CAS) may lead to greater atrophy of subserved brain regions; however, prospective studies on the impact of CAS on progression of hemispheric brain atrophy are lacking. We examined the association between CAS and progression of hemispheric brain atrophy.

METHODS: We included 654 patients (57 ± 9 years) of the SMART-MR study, a prospective cohort study of patients with manifest arterial disease. Patients had baseline CAS duplex measurements and a 1.5T brain MRI at baseline and after 4 years of follow-up. Mean change in hemispheric brain volumes (% of intracranial volume [ICV]) was estimated between baseline and follow-up for left-sided and right-sided CAS across three degrees of stenosis (mild [≤29%], moderate [30-69%], and severe [≥70%]), adjusting for demographics, cerebrovascular risk factors, and brain infarcts.

RESULTS: Mean decrease in left and right hemispheric brain volumes was 1.15% ICV and 0.82% ICV, respectively, over 4 years of follow-up. Severe right-sided CAS, compared to mild CAS, was associated with a greater decrease in volume of the left hemisphere (B = -0.49% ICV, 95% CI: -0.86 to -0.13) and more profoundly of the right hemisphere (B = -0.90% ICV, 95% CI: -1.27 to -0.54). This pattern was independent of cerebrovascular risk factors, brain infarcts, and white matter hyperintensities on MRI, and was also observed when accounting for the presence of severe bilateral CAS. Increasing degrees of left-sided CAS, however, was not associated with greater volume loss of the left or right hemisphere.

CONCLUSIONS: Our data indicate that severe (≥70%) CAS could represent a risk factor for greater ipsilateral brain volume loss, independent of cerebrovascular risk factors, brain infarcts, or white matter hyperintensities on MRI. Further longitudinal studies in other cohorts are warranted to confirm this novel finding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-233
Number of pages8
JournalCerebrovascular diseases (Basel, Switzerland)
Issue number2
Early online date12 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023


  • Brain atrophy
  • Carotid artery stenosis
  • Cohort studies
  • MRI


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