Systemic Arterial Correlates of Cervical Carotid Artery Tortuosity: The Northern Manhattan Study

Farid Khasiyev, Tatjana Rundek, Marco R. Di Tullio, Clinton B Wright, Ralph L. Sacco, Mitchell S.V. Elkind, Jose Gutierrez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: The association between cervical internal carotid artery (cICA) tortuosity and atherosclerosis is a matter of debate. Additionally, some genetic syndromes characterized by connective tissue remodeling are associated with arterial tortuosity, raising the possibility that cICA tortuosity may not only be atherosclerotic. In this study, we hypothesized that cICA tortuosity is not associated with imaging biomarkers of atherosclerosis. Methods: The Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS) was a prospective, multiethnic cohort of stroke-free individuals who underwent brain MRA, carotid ultrasound and transthoracic echocardiogram from 2003–2008. The cICA tortuosity was scored in each carotid as 0 = no tortuosity, 1 = tortuosity <90°, 2 = tortuosity ≥90°. A summary cICA tortuosity score (possible range 0–4) was created by adding up the tortuosity score from each carotid. Participants were assessed for atherosclerotic markers by using B‑mode carotid sonography and transthoracic echocardiography. Results: Of 558 participants 178 (31.9%) had any cervical ICA tortuosity (tortuosity score >0). The cICA tortuosity score was higher in women and was associated with diastolic and systolic blood pressures and height (all P < 0.05). In models adjusted for demographics and risk factors, only the association with diastolic blood pressure remained significant (β = 0.002, P = 0.02). Similarly, cICA tortuosity was associated with larger aortic root diameter (B = 1.03 ± 0.36, P = 0.004) but not with other markers of carotid or aortic atherosclerosis. Conclusion: Cervical ICA tortuosity is associated with a higher diastolic blood pressure and larger aortic root diameter but not with other measures of atherosclerosis. Determining the risks of vascular events associated with this non-atherosclerotic phenotype may help for a better risk stratification for individuals with cICA tortuosity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalClinical Neuroradiology
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Carotid artery disease
  • Carotid artery tortuosity
  • Dolichoarteriopathy
  • Dolichoectasia
  • Tortuosity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology


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