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BACKGROUND: Diabetes is associated with an increased risk of incident stroke and both early and late recurrent stroke after transient ischaemic attack. Some small studies have suggested that atherosclerotic plaques from diabetics have a higher prevalence of unstable features than plaques from non-diabetics but results have been inconsistent. METHOD: We made detailed histological assessments of 526 plaques from consecutive patients undergoing carotid endarterectomy for recently symptomatic stenosis and related these to the presence of diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance (IGT). RESULTS: 53 (10.1%) patients had diabetes, 26 (5%) had IGT and 447 (84.9%) had normal glucose tolerance (NGT). The overall prevalence of unstable plaque features was similar across these groups. However, whereas plaques removed >60 days after last symptoms in patients with NGT had less surface thrombus (OR = 0.61, 95% CI = 0.40-0.92, p = 0.02), fewer plaque macrophages (OR = 0.78, 95% CI = 0.51-1.19, p < 0.001) and less marked overall instability (OR = 0.57, 95% CI = 0.35-0.88, p = 0.009) than plaques removed more acutely, these features tended to be more persistent in patients with diabetes/IGT (OR = 1.08, 95% CI = 0.42-2.77, OR = 1.16, 95% CI = 0.46-2.96 and OR = 1.51, 95% CI = 0.60-3.77, respectively). CONCLUSION: Overall, the prevalence of unstable histology features in recently symptomatic carotid plaques is similar in patients with diabetes, IGT and NGT. However, surface thrombus and plaque macrophages appear to persist for longer after ischaemic symptoms in plaques from patients with diabetes/IGT compared to plaques from patients with NGT. This may contribute to the increased risk of recurrent stroke that is associated with diabetes/IGT.

Original publication




Journal article


Cerebrovasc Dis

Publication Date





79 - 86


Aged, Carotid Stenosis, Diabetes Complications, Endarterectomy, Carotid, Female, Glucose Intolerance, Humans, Ischemic Attack, Transient, Macrophages, Male, Middle Aged, Odds Ratio, Recurrence, Risk Assessment, Rupture, Stroke, Thrombosis