To examine the association of atherosclerosis burden in the survivors of an asymptomatic elderly cohort study and its relationship to other coronary risk factors (specifically, age) by evaluating aortic atherosclerotic wall burden by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
A total of 312 participants in an ongoing observational cohort study underwent cardiac and descending thoracic aorta imaging by MRI. Maximum wall thickness was measured and the mean wall thickness calculated. Wall/outer wall ratio was used as a normalized wall index (NWI) adjusted for artery size difference among participants. Percent wall volume (PWV) was calculated as NWI × 100.
IN THIS ASYMPTOMATIC COHORT (MEAN AGE: 76 years), the mean (SD) aortic wall area and wall thickness were 222 ± 45 mm(2) and 2.7 ± 0.4 mm, respectively. Maximum wall thickness was 3.4 ± 0.6 mm, and PWV was 32% ± 4%. Women appeared to have smaller wall area, but after correcting for their smaller artery size, had significantly higher PWV than men (P = 0.03). Older age was associated with larger wall area (P = 0.04 for trend) with similar PWVs. However, there were no statistically significant associations between standard risk factors, Framingham global risk, or metabolic syndrome status, therapy for cholesterol or hypertension, coronary or aortic calcium score, and the aortic wall burden. Aortic calcification was associated with coronary calcification.
Asymptomatic elderly in this cohort had a greater descending thoracic aortic wall volume that correlated with age, and women had a significantly increased PWV compared to men. In these survivors, the atherosclerotic aortic wall burden was not significantly associated with traditional risk factors or with coronary or aortic calcium scores or coronary calcium progression. Results suggest that age, or as yet unidentified risk factor(s), may be responsible for the increase in atherosclerosis.