Background The widespread use of brain imaging has led to increased recognition of subclinical brain abnormalities, including white matter hyperintensities (WMH) and silent brain infarctions (SBI), which have a vascular origin, and have been associated to a high risk of stroke, disability and dementia. Carotid atherosclerosis (CA) may be causative in the development of WMH, SBI and eventually brain atrophy. Aim of the present systematic review and meta-analysis was to assess the existing evidence linking CA to WMH, SBI and brain atrophy. Methods The relation between CA and WMH, SBI and brain atrophy was investigated through the systematic search of online databases up to September 2015 and manual searching of references and related citations. Pooled estimates were calculated by random-effects model, using restricted maximum likelihood method with inverse variance weighting method. Results Of the 3536 records identified, fifteen were included in the systematic review and 9 were found to be eligible for the meta-analysis. CA was significantly associated with the presence of WMH (Odds Ratio, OR 1.42, confidence interval, CI 1.22–1.66, p < 0.0001) and of SBI (OR 1.89, CI 1.46–2.45, p < 0.0001). No meta-analysis could be performed for the relation between CA and brain atrophy due to the lack of suitable studies. Conclusions CA was found to be associated to WMH and SBI. While no causative association can be inferred from the available data, the presence of carotid plaque may be considered a significant risk factor for subclinical cerebral damage.
- Brain atrophy
- Carotid atherosclerosis
- Silent brain infarction
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine