Family History Closely Linked To Carotid Artery Stenosis

Iftikhar J. Kullo, MD Division of Cardiovascular Diseases Mayo Clinic Rochester, Interview with:
Iftikhar J. Kullo, MD
Division of Cardiovascular Diseases
Mayo Clinic Rochester, MN


Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Kullo: The main findings of the study are:

1) Family history of stroke or heart attack is associated with presence of significant narrowing (greater than 70%) of the carotid arteries. These are the arteries that supply blood to the brain and narrowing or blockage of these arteries is associated with increased risk of stroke;

2) Having a sibling history of stroke or heart attack was more strongly associated with narrowing of the carotid artery than having a parent with such history;

3) The greater number of relatives with history of stroke or heart attack, the greater the odds of having narrowing in one of the carotid arteries.

Medical Research: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Kullo: These findings were not unexpected. However, although multiple studies have shown that the presence of family history is a significant risk factor for developing heart attack and stroke, whether having such family history is associated with presence of narrowing of the carotid arteries was not known. Such narrowing is associated with an increased risk of stroke. This risk can be lowered by surgical or catheter-based treatment of the narrowing/blockage.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Kullo: The American Society of Neuroimaging recommends (Grade A) carotid ultrasound screening to detect the presence of carotid artery narrowing in patients 65 years or older with at least three cardiovascular risk factors: high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, current cigarette smoking, or an abnormal lipid profile). The results of our study suggest that family history of stroke or heart attack is another risk factor for presence of significant narrowing in a carotid artery and should be considered when considering carotid artery ultrasound screening.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Kullo: These findings have important clinical implications and motivate additional studies to assess the utility of screening asymptomatic individuals with family history of stroke or heart attack for detection of plaque in the carotid arteries which may in turn help to prevent ischemic stroke.


Family History as a Risk Factor for Carotid Artery Stenosis

Mahyar Khaleghi, Iyad N. Isseh, Hayan Jouni, Sunghwan Sohn, Kent R. Bailey,
and Iftikhar J. Kullo

Stroke. 2014;STROKEAHA.114.006245published online before print July 8 2014, doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.006245