Angiogenesis is a recognized feature of the atherosclerotic process and has been described in the context of unstable coronary atherosclerotic lesions. The aim of this study was to assess the association between angiogenesis in atherosclerotic carotid plaques and microscopic features of plaque instability, in particular intraplaque haemorrhage.
Consecutive patients undergoing carotid endarterectomy were included. Endarterectomy specimens were divided into their constituent atherosclerotic lesions. Histological sections were prepared and stained with haematoxylin and eosin, and immunohistochemically with an endothelial cell marker (CD34). The quantity of intraplaque haemorrhage was measured in transverse histological sections using computerized image analysis. Microvessel counts were performed in CD34-stained sections and were verified through computerized image analysis.
Some 239 atherosclerotic lesions from 73 patients were available for analysis; 73 were early lesions, 74 were raised fibroatheromas and 92 were unstable atherosclerotic plaques. One hundred and fifty lesions were not haemorrhagic; 89 exhibited intraplaque haemorrhage, of which 28 involved less than 50 per cent of the plaque sectional area. There were higher microvessel counts in plaques containing over 50 per cent haemorrhage (P < 0·0001), unstable atherosclerotic lesions (P < 0·0001) and atherosclerotic lesions obtained from symptomatic patients (P < 0·001).
There are strong associations between plaque vascularity, quantity of intraplaque haemorrhage and presence of symptomatic carotid occlusive disease. © 2001 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd