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BACKGROUND: Aortic atherosclerosis represents an important contributor to ischemic stroke risk. Identifying patients with high-risk aortic atheroma could improve preventative treatment strategies for future ischemic stroke. OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to investigate whether thoracic 18F-sodium fluoride positron emission tomography (PET) could improve the identification of patients at the highest risk of ischemic stroke. METHODS: In a post hoc observational cohort study, we quantified thoracic aortic and coronary 18F-sodium fluoride activity in 461 patients with stable cardiovascular disease undergoing PET combined with computed tomography (CT). Progression of atherosclerosis was assessed by change in aortic and coronary CT calcium volume. Clinical outcomes were determined by the occurrence of ischemic stroke and myocardial infarction. We compared the prognostic utility of 18F-sodium fluoride activity for predicting stroke to clinical risk scores and CT calcium quantification using survival analysis and multivariable Cox regression. RESULTS: After 12.7 ± 2.7 months, progression of thoracic aortic calcium volume correlated with baseline thoracic aortic 18F-sodium fluoride activity (n = 140; r = 0.31; P = 0.00016). In 461 patients, 23 (5%) patients experienced an ischemic stroke and 32 (7%) a myocardial infarction after 6.1 ± 2.3 years of follow-up. High thoracic aortic 18F-sodium fluoride activity was strongly associated with ischemic stroke (HR: 10.3 [95% CI: 3.1-34.8]; P = 0.00017), but not myocardial infarction (P = 0.40). Conversely, high coronary 18F-sodium fluoride activity was associated with myocardial infarction (HR: 4.8 [95% CI: 1.9-12.2]; P = 0.00095) but not ischemic stroke (P = 0.39). In a multivariable Cox regression model including imaging and clinical risk factors, thoracic aortic 18F-sodium fluoride activity was the only variable associated with ischemic stroke (HR: 8.19 [95% CI: 2.33-28.7], P = 0.0010). CONCLUSIONS: In patients with established cardiovascular disease, thoracic aortic 18F-sodium fluoride activity is associated with the progression of atherosclerosis and future ischemic stroke. Arterial 18F-sodium fluoride activity identifies localized areas of atherosclerotic disease activity that are directly linked to disease progression and downstream regional clinical atherothrombotic events. (DIAMOND-Dual Antiplatelet Therapy to Reduce Myocardial Injury [DIAMOND], NCT02110303; Study Investigating the Effect of Drugs Used to Treat Osteoporosis on the Progression of Calcific Aortic Stenosis [SALTIRE II], NCT02132026; Novel Imaging Approaches To Identify Unstable Coronary Plaques, NCT01749254; and Role of Active Valvular Calcification and Inflammation in Patients With Aortic Stenosis, NCT01358513).

Original publication




Journal article


Jacc cardiovasc imaging

Publication Date





1274 - 1288


(18)F-sodium fluoride, calcification, computed tomography, positron emission tomography, stroke, thoracic aorta, Aortic Valve Stenosis, Atherosclerosis, Calcium, Cardiovascular Diseases, Fluorine Radioisotopes, Humans, Myocardial Infarction, Plaque, Atherosclerotic, Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography, Predictive Value of Tests, Radiopharmaceuticals, Sodium Fluoride, Stroke