Atherosclerotic plaque ulcers ≥2 mm in depth and width in the thoracic aorta have been implicated by autopsy study as a cause of unexplained or cryptogenic ischemic strokes. Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) allows visualization of complex atherosclerotic lesions of the thoracic aorta. We compared the prevalence of thoracic aorta ulcerated plaques (ulcers ≥2 mm in both depth and width) in three age-matched groups undergoing multiplane TEE: group 1, 23 patients with cryptogenic ischemic stroke; group 2, 26 patients with known-cause strokes; and group 3, 57 control patients without strokes. TEEs were interpreted in a blinded fashion. Ulcerated plaques were found in 9 (39%) group 1 patients but in only 2 (8%) group 2 patients and in only 4 (7%) group 3 patients (p < 0.001). There was an association between advancing age and the presence of ulcerated plaques (p < 0.02). We conclude that ulcerated atherosclerotic plaques in the thoracic aorta are associated with cryptogenic ischemic stroke and should be considered a potential source of cerebral emboli.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine