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OBJECTIVE: Due to the low prevalence of obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD) in women, stress testing has a relatively low predictive value for this. Additionally, conventional cardiovascular risk scores underestimate risk in women. This study sought to evaluate the role of atherosclerosis assessment using carotid ultrasound (CU) in women attending for stress echocardiography (SE). METHODS: This was a prospective study in which consecutive women with recent-onset suspected angina, who were referred for clinically indicated SE, underwent CU. RESULTS: 415 women (mean age 61±10 years, 29% diabetes mellitus, mean body mass index 28) attending for SE underwent CU. 47 women (11%) had inducible wall motion abnormalities, and carotid disease (CD) was present in 46% (carotid plaque in 41%, carotid intima-media thickness >75th percentile in 15%). Women with CD were older (65 vs 58 years, p<0.001), and more likely to have diabetes (41% vs 21%, p=0.001), hypertension (67% vs 36%, p<0.01) and a higher pretest probability of CAD (59% vs 41%, p<0.001). 40% of women classified as low Framingham risk were found to have evidence of CD.The positive predictive value of SE for flow-limiting CAD was 51%, but with the presence of carotid plaque, this was 71% (p<0.01). Carotid plaque (p=0.004) and ischaemia (p=0.01) were the only independent predictors of >70% angiographic stenosis. In women with ischaemia on SE and no carotid plaque, the negative predictive value for flow-limiting disease was 88%.During a follow-up of 1058±234 days, there were 15 events (defined as all-cause mortality, non-fatal myocardial infarction, heart failure admissions and late coronary revascularisation). Age (HR 1.07 (1.00-1.15), p=0.04), carotid plaque burden (HR 1.65 (1.36-2.00), p<0.001) and ischaemic burden (HR 1.41 (1.18-1.68), p<0.001) were associated with outcome. There was a stepwise increase in events/year from 0.3% when there were no ischaemia and atherosclerosis, 1.1% when there was atherosclerosis and no ischaemia, 2.2% when there was ischaemia and no atherosclerosis and 10% when there were both ischaemia and atherosclerosis (p<0.001). CONCLUSION: CU significantly improves the accuracy of SE alone for identifying flow-limiting disease on coronary angiography, and improves risk stratification in women attending for SE, as well identifying a subset of women who may benefit from primary preventative measures.

Original publication




Journal article


Open Heart

Publication Date





atherosclerosis, carotid artery disease, stress, Adrenergic beta-1 Receptor Agonists, Aged, Angina Pectoris, Carotid Artery Diseases, Carotid Intima-Media Thickness, Coronary Artery Disease, Dobutamine, Echocardiography, Stress, Exercise Test, Female, Heart Disease Risk Factors, Humans, Middle Aged, Predictive Value of Tests, Prognosis, Prospective Studies, Reproducibility of Results, Risk Assessment, Time Factors