Objectives: To elucidate whether atherosclerotic aortic plaque detected by transesophageal echocardiography can be a clinically useful marker for coronary artery disease in the elderly.
Background: Atherosclerotic aortic plaque detected by transesophageal echocardiography has been reported to be a marker for coronary artery disease. Its significance may be important particularly in the elderly population, although to our knowledge, there are no data yet available.
Methods: We performed transesophageal echocardiography on 84 patients who had previously undergone coronary arteriography. The criteria used to diagnose atherosclerotic plaque on transesophageal echocardiography were the presence of focally or linearly increased echodensity of the aortic intima with lumen irregularity and thickening or ulceration.
Results: Significant coronary artery disease (≥50% stenosis) was detected in at least one major coronary artery in 27 of the 84 patients. Aortic plaques were detected by transesophageal echocardiography in 25 of the 27 patients (93%) with coronary artery disease and in 30 of 57 patients (53%) without coronary disease (p<0.001). Among 24 patients 70 years or older, aortic plaques were present in 13 of 14 (93%) patients with coronary artery disease and 9 of 10 patients (90%) without coronary disease. Among 60 patients younger than 70 years, aortic plaques were present in 12 of 13 patients (92%) with coronary artery disease and 21 of 47 patients (45%) without coronary disease (p<0.01). The independent association between coronary artery disease and the presence of aortic plaque, age, gender, and other coronary risk factors was examined by multiple logistic regression analysis. In patients 70 years or older, the presence of aortic plaque failed to be a predictor of significant coronary artery disease, although it was indeed a strong predictor of coronary artery disease in patients younger than 70 years (p<0.05).
Conclusions: In elderly patients, atherosclerotic aortic plaque detected by transesophageal echocardiography is not useful in predicting significant coronary artery disease. It is useful only in a relatively younger population.