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Atherothrombosis: a major health burden.

Cerebrovascular Diseases (Basel, Switzerland)

etiology, Vascular Diseases, mortality, Thrombosis, prevention & control, Stroke, Humans, Cost of Illness, Coronary Disease, Brain Ischemia, complications, Arteriosclerosis, Arteries

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      Atherosclerosis involves structural change to the intima and media of medium- and large-sized arteries. Although an atherosclerotic plaque may remain clinically silent, it is prone to disruption, leading to local platelet activation and aggregation. Therefore, the major complication of atherosclerosis is thrombosis, with local occlusion or distal embolism - a generalized disease process known as atherothrombosis. The three main clinical manifestations of atherothrombosis are coronary heart disease (myocardial infarction and angina), peripheral arterial disease and cerebral ischaemia. Atherothrombosis is a leading cause of mortality, and stroke is the leading cause of disability in adults, the second most important cause of dementia and the third most common cause of death in Western countries. Ischaemic stroke accounts for 80% of strokes and atherothrombosis accounts for approximately 20% of all strokes. Criteria for atherothrombotic stroke are evidence of a 50% (or greater) stenosis of a cervical artery and exclusion of other potential causes. The incidence of cerebrovascular events is 2,900 per million inhabitants per year, consisting of 500 transient ischaemic attacks and 2,400 strokes, of which 75% are first-ever stroke. The prevalence of stroke in the same population is 12,000, of which 800 patients (7%) per year have recurrences. The risk of ipsilateral stroke is 5% per year and the risk of a cardiac event is higher at 7%. Besides optimal management of risk factors for atherothrombosis and carotid surgery, antiplatelet therapy is the cornerstone of vascular prevention. In secondary prevention, antiplatelet agents are effective in reducing the risk of further ischaemic events in patients with atherothrombosis. Clopidogrel, a newly licensed ADP receptor antagonist, is the only antiplatelet agent to have demonstrated its superiority versus aspirin for the reduction of major ischaemic events (myocardial infarction, ischaemic stroke, vascular death) in patients whose initial manifestation of atherothrombosis was one of the three main clinical manifestations of the disease (recent ischaemic stroke, myocardial infarction, established peripheral arterial disease).

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