Macroscopic Evaluation of Atherosclerosis in the Arteries: An Autopsy Assessment Tool

Mariana Silva Oliveira Bianca Gonçalves Silva Torquato Maria Helena Soares Maria Luiza Gonçalves dos Reis Monteiro Guilherme Ribeiro Juliano Laura Sanches Aguiar Vicente de Paula Antunes Teixeira Mara Lúcia da Fonseca Ferraz About the authors



Atherosclerosis, in some cases, is an asymptomatic condition, and it is important to know the degree of arterial impairment caused by plaques and its association with risk factors. Autopsy examination provides understanding of basic disease processes and assessment to data about macroscopic characteristic of atherosclerotic involvement.


To macroscopically assess and standardize atherosclerotic involvement of aorta, carotid and iliac arteries and compare with age, gender and causes of death.


We collected 53 aortic arteries, 53 right carotid arteries, 53 left carotid arteries, 53 right iliac arteries and 53 left iliac arteries. For this assessment, the extension of fatty streaks, atheromatous plaques, fibrosis and calcification were considered, being the reference to score the degree of atherosclerotic involvement. Many degrees of atherosclerosis and accurate values were observed for mild, moderate and severe classification. For statistical analysis, data were analyzed using the software GraphPad Prism® 7.0. Differences were considered statistically significant if p-value was less than 5% (p <0.05).


Carotid arteries had greater atherosclerotic involvement compared to the other arteries (K = 15.73, p = 0.0004). Atherosclerosis was progressive and significant with increasing age (carotid arteries: t = 6.321; p <0.0001; aorta: U = 83.5; p <0.0001; iliac: U = 306; p <0.0001) and as cause of cardiovascular death (carotids: t = 5.047; p <0.0001; aorta: U = 98.5; p = 0.0068; iliac: U = 467.5; p = 0.0012).


Macroscopic assessment of atherosclerosis is an innovative and low-cost way of direct visualization of atherosclerotic plaques, enabling an association with risk factors such as increasing age and cardiovascular diseases, providing important data for clinical practice.

Cardiovascular Diseases; Atherosclerosis; Risk Factors; Asymptomatic Disease; Arteries; Autopsy; Heredity; Early Diagnosis

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