Carotid intima-media thickness is increased in Turner syndrome: multifactorial pathogenesis depending on age, blood pressure, cholesterol and oestrogen treatment


Kristian H. Mortensen, MD, PhD, Department of Endocrinology and Internal Medicine Aarhus Hospital NBG, Aarhus University Hospital, Nørrebrogade 44, DK 8000, Aarhus C, Denmark. Tel.: +4589492035; Fax: +4589492072; E-mail:


Objective  Carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) may potentially supplement cardiovascular risk assessment in Turner syndrome (TS), where cardiovascular risk is high and appropriate risk stratification difficult. Knowledge of IMT in TS is scarce, and this study aimed to enhance insight into the cardiovascular risk marker.

Design, Patients and Measurements  IMT was cross-sectionally assessed by ultrasonography of the common carotid artery (cIMT) and carotid bulb (bIMT) in TS (n = 69, age 40 ± 10 years) and age-matched, healthy female controls (n = 67). Additional prospective IMT assessment was performed in TS over 2·4 ± 0·3 years. Metabolic biomarkers and 24-h ambulatory blood pressure were also assessed.

Results  cIMT and bIMT (body surface area indexed) were increased in TS (P < 0·05) with 17–18% having IMTs that exceeded the 95th percentile of the controls (P < 0·05). Blood pressure, heart rate, glycosylated haemoglobin A1c and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol were increased in TS, where 43% received antihypertensive treatment. cIMT decreased during follow-up, coinciding with intensified cardiovascular risk prophylaxis, whereas bIMT was unchanged. In multiple regression analyses (R = 0·52–0·69, P < 0·05), baseline IMT in TS increased with age, blood pressure and cholesterol as well as in the presence of diabetes whilst IMT was inversely associated with duration of oestrogen replacement. In an analogue analysis, the prospective changes in cIMT (R = 0·37, P < 0·05) were beneficially influenced by antihypertensive treatment and oestrogen therapy and adversely by the presence of diabetes.

Conclusion  Carotid IMT was abnormal in TS and negatively influenced by age, metabolic biomarkers, blood pressure and short duration of oestrogen treatment. Attention to common cardiovascular and endocrine risk markers over more than 2 years appeared to influence IMT beneficially.