Higher Leukocyte Count Is Associated with Lower Presence of Carotid Lipid-Rich Necrotic Core: A Sub-Study in the Plaque at RISK (PARISK) Study

T.J. van Velzen*, J. Stolp, D. van Dam-Nolen, M. Kassem, J. Hendrikse, M.E. Kooi, D. Bos, P.J. Nederkoorn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Increasing evidence suggests that inflammation inside the vessel wall has a prominent role in atherosclerosis. In carotid atherosclerosis in particular, vulnerable plaque characteristics are strongly linked to an increased stroke risk. An association between leukocytes and plaque characteristics has not been investigated before and could help with gaining knowledge on the role of inflammation in plaque vulnerability, which could contribute to a new target for intervention. In this study, we investigated the association of the leukocyte count with carotid vulnerable plaque characteristics. Methods: All patients from the Plaque At RISK (PARISK) study whom had complete data on their leukocyte count and CTA- and MRI-based plaque characteristics were included. Univariable logistic regression was used to detect associations of the leukocyte count with the separate plaque characteristics (intra-plaque haemorrhage (IPH), lipid-rich-necrotic core (LRNC), thin or ruptured fibrous cap (TRFC), plaque ulceration and plaque calcifications). Subsequently, other known risk factors for stroke were included as covariates in a multivariable logistic regression model. Results: 161 patients were eligible for inclusion in this study. Forty-six (28.6%) of these patients were female with a mean age of 70 [IQR 64-74]. An association was found between a higher leukocyte count and lower prevalence of LRNC (OR 0.818 (95% CI 0.687-0.975)) while adjusting for covariates. No associations were found between the leucocyte count and the presence of IPH, TRFC, plaque ulceration or calcifications. Conclusions: The leukocyte count is inversely associated with the presence of LRNC in the atherosclerotic carotid plaque in patients with a recently symptomatic carotid stenosis. The exact role of leukocytes and inflammation in plaque vulnerability deserves further attention.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1370
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023


  • carotid stenosis
  • ischemic stroke
  • leukocyte
  • vulnerable plaque
  • atherosclerosis
  • MRI


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