Objectives: Patients with bipolar disorder are at high risk of cardiovascular diseases. Among cardiovascular diseases, coronary heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of premature death and both share the pathogenesis of arterial atherosclerosis. Increased carotid intima-media thickness is sensitive for detecting early atherosclerosis and a practical index for predicting cardiovascular diseases. However, few studies investigated carotid intima-media thickness in adults with bipolar disorder. We attempted to determine the factors associated with carotid intima-media thickness in adults with bipolar disorder. Methods: The euthymic out-patients with bipolar I disorder aged over 20 years were recruited to measure the carotid intima-media thickness value through B-mode carotid ultrasound. Those with any psychiatric disorder, acute or life-threatening medical condition were excluded. All clinical information was obtained by reviewing medical records and directly interviewing patients with reliable others. Results: Of the 106 participants with a mean age of 44.5 years, 40.6% (N = 43) had concurrent cardiovascular/endocrine/metabolic diseases. A multivariate regression indicated that higher assumed daily lithium dosage was significantly associated with a decreased carotid intima-media thickness in the whole sample. In the young subgroup (⩽45 years old, N = 63), higher current daily lithium dosage and lower body mass index were associated with lower carotid intima-media thickness. In those without concurrent cardiovascular/endocrine/metabolic diseases, higher ratio of first-generation antipsychotics exposure in relation to illness chronicity was associated with higher carotid intima-media thickness, after controlling for body mass index or age. Conclusion: Lithium treatment may be associated with less progression in carotid intima-media thickness and the reduced risk for atherosclerosis in adults with bipolar disorder, including those with high cardiovascular disease risk. In addition to age and body mass index, antipsychotics may increase carotid intima-media thickness even in the low cardiovascular disease-risk patients.
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