Carotid artery (CA) plaque characteristics are often measured using asymptomatic community-based cohort magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures. However, whether these measures are independently associated with incident cardiovascular disease (CVD) events is uncertain. This study aims to ascertain the association of CA MRI plaque characteristics and the incidence of CVD events.

This prospective epidemiologic study included a total of 2,066 men and women. The eligible participants had incident CVD events during a median follow-up time of 10.5 years. The primary outcome of the study was the association between MRI variables of CLA plaque burden and plaque characteristics measured using proportional hazards Cox analyses.

Of 2,066 participants involved in the study, 1,256 were eligible for incident CVD analyses. In participants with carotid artery plaques, those who had incident CVD events (13.7%) had a higher normalized wall index compared with those without CVD events (86.3%). The findings also suggested that the presence of lipid core was independently associated with incident CVD events after traditional CVD risk factors were adjusted. Carotid artery lumen area and maximum stenosis were also independently associated with incident CVD events.

The research concluded that the presence of CA lipid core on MRI was associated with a higher risk of CVD events.