Older patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are at higher risk for plaque formation in the carotid artery, increasing their risk of stroke, according to a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Researchers in the Netherlands compared the plaque composition of 250 patients with COPD aged 55 years and older with 920 patients who did not have COPD. They obtained MRI scans for the patients with carotid-wall thickening to further examine the plaques in the carotid artery.
Carotid-wall thickening was seen twice as frequently in the patients who had COPD than in those who did not. The risk increased significantly for those who experienced difficulty in breathing, it was noted.
The researchers concluded that clinicians should be aware that patients with COPD are at increased risk for asymptomatic carotid atherosclerosis. They suggested that an understanding of the risk factors for stroke in patients with COPD can help identify those at high risk and lead to the development of more personalized preventative treatment strategies.