Atherosclerosis in intracranial or extracranial vessels in diabetic patients and the association with stroke subtype

Li-Ming Wei, Yue-Qi Zhu, Yu-Qian Bao, Hai-Tao Lu, Pei-Lei Zhang, Yu-Wu Zhao, Mei Li, Jun-Gong Zhao


Background: Diabetes mellitus (DM) is associated with increased prevalence and severity of atherosclerosis. This study aimed to assess the prevalence and location of atherosclerosis in intracranial and extracranial vessels in diabetic patients and to investigate their association with ischemic stroke subtype.
Methods: Diabetes patients (n=128) and nondiabetic patients (n=195) were enrolled. Brain MRI, MR angiography, and digital subtraction angiography (DSA) imaging findings in the two groups were retrospectively compared. The characteristics of atherosclerosis (prevalence, location, severity) and collateral flow in diabetic and nondiabetic patients and their association with stroke subtype were analyzed.
Results: Atherosclerosis in extracranial vessels was more common in diabetes patients than in nondiabetic patients (43.8% vs. 23.1%; P<0.001). Symptomatic stenoses were commonly in the proximal internal carotid artery (ICA) and proximal vertebral artery (pVA). Diabetes patients were more likely to have lacunar infarction (49.2% vs. 32.3%; P=0.002) and less likely to have large artery infarct (10.9% vs. 27.7%; P=0.042). DM (OR, 2.03; 95% CI, 1.96–4.30; P=0.006) and age >65 years (OR, 2.55; 95% CI, 1.24–5.22; P=0.011) were independent risk factors for lacunar infarct. Diabetes patients with symptomatic extracranial stenosis or occlusion, combined with good collateral circulation, had significantly higher risk of lacunar infarction than nondiabetic patients (47.8% vs. 30.5%; P=0.045).
Conclusions: DM aggravates the severity of extracranial atherosclerosis. Lacunar stroke is relatively common in diabetic patients and could even be due to large artery disease (LAD).