Diabetes and carotid artery disease: a narrative review

Niki Katsiki, Dimitri P. Mikhailidis


Diabetes mellitus (DM) has been linked to an increased prevalence and severity of carotid artery disease, as well as polyvascular disease. Carotid disease is also associated with obesity and abnormal peri- organ and intra-organ fat (APIFat) deposition (i.e., excess fat accumulation in several organs such as the liver, heart and vessels). In turn, DM is associated with APIFat. The coexistence of these comorbidities confers a greater risk of vascular events. Clinicians should also consider that carotid bruits may predict cardiovascular risk. DM has been related to a greater risk of adverse outcomes after carotid endarterectomy or stenting. Whether modifying risk factors (e.g., glycaemia and dyslipidaemia) in DM patients can improve the outcomes of these procedures needs to be established. Furthermore, DM is a risk factor for contrast- induced acute kidney injury (CI-AKI). The latter should be recorded in DM patients undergoing carotid stenting since it can influence both short- and long-term outcomes. From a pathophysiological perspective, functional changes in the carotid artery may precede morphological ones. Furthermore, carotid plaque characteristics are increasingly being studied in terms of vascular risk stratification and monitoring short- term changes attributed to treatment. The present narrative review discusses the recent (2019) literature on the associations between DM and carotid artery disease. Physicians and vascular surgeons looking after patients with carotid disease and DM should consider these links that may influence outcomes. Further research in this field is also needed to optimise the treatment of such patients.