To determine the association between asymptomatic carotid bruits and the development of subsequent stroke in older adults with isolated systolic hypertension.
Retrospective cohort study.
The Systolic Hypertension in the Elderly Program (SHEP), a 5-year randomized trial testing the efficacy of treating systolic hypertension in noninstitutionalized persons aged 60 years or older. From the original 4,736 SHEP participants, we identified a cohort of 4,442 persons who had no prior history of stroke, transient ischemic attack, or myocardial infarction at randomization.
MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS
The end point for this ancillary study was the development of a stroke. The average follow-up was 4.2 years. Carotid bruits were found in 284 (6.4%) of the participants at baseline. Strokes developed in 21 (7.4%) of those with carotid bruits and in 210 (5.0%) of those without carotid bruits. The unadjusted risk of stroke among persons with carotid bruits was 1.53 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.98, 2.40). Adjusting for age, gender, race, blood pressure, smoking, lipid levels, self-reported aspirin use, and treatment group assignment, the relative risk of stroke among persons with asymptomatic carotid bruits was 1.29 (95% CI 0.80, 2.06). Among SHEP enrollees aged 60 to 69 years, there was a trend (p=.08) toward increased risk (relative risk [RR] 2.05; 95% CI 0.92, 4.68) of subsequent stroke in persons with, compared to those without, carotid bruits. However, among enrollees aged 70 years or over, there was no relation between carotid bruit and subsequent stroke (RR 0.98; 95% CI 0.55, 1.76). In no other subgroup of SHEP enrollees did the presence of carotid bruit independently predict stroke.
Although we cannot rule out a small increased risk of stroke associated with bruits in asymptomatic SHEP enrollees aged 60 to 69 years, the utility of carotid bruits as a marker for increased risk of stroke among asymptomatic elderly with isolated systolic hypertension aged 70 years or older is limited.