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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: December 2009

Morphological plaque imaging

Summary

This chapter introduces the state-of-the-art noninvasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques that are used to monitor atherosclerosis of the carotid artery. High-resolution MRI is an ideal plaque imaging technique because it is noninvasive and able to create excellent soft tissue contrast and distinguish flowing blood from surrounding stationary tissues. Multicontrast weighted imaging protocol provides an oblique view of the carotid artery to better visualize the location of the carotid bifurcation and to demonstrate plaque distribution. The objective of the American Heart Association (AHA) histological classification of atherosclerosis, first published in 1995, was to provide a clinically relevant categorization of human atherosclerotic lesions based on their histological composition and structure. Major plaque components include fibrous connective tissue, the lipid-rich necrotic core, intraplaque hemorrhage, and calcification. MRI is capable of identifying many of the key vulnerable plaque features defined by the expert panel with a high level of accuracy and reproducibility.