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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

High-resolution intravascular magnetic resonance quantification of atherosclerotic plaque at 3T

Di Qian1 and Paul A Bottomley12*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of MR Research, Department of Radiology and Radiological Science, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA

2 Division of MR Research, Department of Radiology and Radiological Science, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 600 N Wolfe St, Park 310, Baltimore, MD, USA

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Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance 2012, 14:20  doi:10.1186/1532-429X-14-20

Published: 26 March 2012

Abstract

Background

The thickness of fibrous caps (FCT) of atherosclerotic lesions is a critical factor affecting plaque vulnerability to rupture. This study tests whether 3 Tesla high-resolution intravascular cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) employing tiny loopless detectors can identify lesions and accurately measure FCT in human arterial specimens, and whether such an approach is feasible in vivo using animal models.

Methods

Receive-only 2.2 mm and 0.8 mm diameter intravascular loopless CMR detectors were fabricated for a clinical 3 Tesla MR scanner, and the absolute signal-to-noise ratio determined. The detectors were applied in a two-step protocol comprised of CMR angiography to identify atherosclerotic lesions, followed by high-resolution CMR to characterize FCT, lesion size, and/or vessel wall thickness. The protocol was applied in fresh human iliac and carotid artery specimens in a human-equivalent saline bath. Mean FCT measured by 80 μm intravascular CMR was compared with histology of the same sections. In vivo studies compared aortic wall thickness and plaque size in healthy and hyperlipidemic rabbit models, with post-mortem histology.

Results

Histology confirmed plaques in human specimens, with calcifications appearing as signal voids. Mean FCT agreed with histological measurements within 13% on average (correlation coefficient, R = 0.98; Bland-Altman analysis, -1.3 ± 68.9 μm). In vivo aortic wall and plaque size measured by 80 μm intravascular CMR agreed with histology.

Conclusion

Intravascular 3T CMR with loopless detectors can both locate atherosclerotic lesions, and accurately measure FCT at high-resolution in a strategy that appears feasible in vivo. The approach shows promise for quantifying vulnerable plaque for evaluating experimental therapies.

Keywords:
Interventional MR; Intravascular MR; Atherosclerosis; Fibrous cap thickness; High-resolution