Comparison of vascular smooth muscle cell apoptosis and fibrous cap morphology in symptomatic and asymptomatic carotid artery disease

Ashwini S. Dhume, Krish Soundararajan, William J. Hunter, Devendra K. Agrawal

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37 Scopus citations


The biological cascades that lead to carotid plaque disruptions and symptoms are largely unknown. Certain cellular events within the plaque might be responsible for destabilizing the plaque, though the popular belief is that the plaque size is directly related to symptoms. The aim of our study was to assess the morphology of the fibrous cap and apoptosis in the plaque and compare these two pathological features in symptomatic and asymptomatic carotid artery disease. Our work was carried out in plaques obtained following carotid endarterectomy performed for symptomatic disease (including hemispheric transient ischemic attacks, amaurosis fugax, or stroke) or asymptomatic high-grade severe stenosis. Scion images of Gomori's stained sections were used to measure fibrous cap thickness and area. TUNEL assay was performed to assess the extent of apoptosis. The results indicated that the area of the fibrous cap did not significantly correlate with the presence of symptoms. There was a higher percentage of apoptotic nuclei and the thinner fibrous cap in symptomatic plaques than in asymptomatic plaques. This finding suggests that these factors might be involved in destabilizing plaque, causing rupture and leading to symptomatic carotid disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Vascular Surgery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2003


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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