Objectives: To evaluate the correlation between antiretroviral therapy (ART) and lesions of the carotid vessels using an ultrasound colour-Doppler technique. Design: A total of 293 HIV-1 infected patients underwent epiaortic vessel ultrasonography: 105 on treatment with protease inhibitors (PI) (group I), 125 PI-naive patients treated with a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor-including regimen (group II), and 63 patients treated with two nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors or naive to ART (group III). Methods: Intima characteristics, pulsation and resistance indexes, and minimal, peak and mean speed were evaluated using a colour power doppler. Atherosclerotic plaques were described. Independent risk factors and values for glycaemia, cholesterolaemia and triglyceridaemia were considered. Statistical analysis included the Wilcoxon tests, the 2 test, the Cochran Armitage trend test and the Mantel–Haenszel test and, when necessary, logistic regression analysis. Results: Of the 150 group I patients, 55 (52.4%) presented acquired lesions of the vascular wall at ultrasonography, whereas similar lesions were found in 19 out of 125 (15.2%) patients in group II and in nine of 63 (14.3%) in group III. ART, age, smoking and CD4 T-cell count were the main predictive risk factors for vascular lesions. However, the highest significance was with the use of PI. Conclusions: These data confirm the higher prevalence of premature carotid lesions in the PI-treated patients. A periodic ultrasonographic study of the vascular wall should be included in the follow-up of HIV infected patients.
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