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International Angiology 2019 December;38(6):443-50

DOI: 10.23736/S0392-9590.19.04174-9


language: English

Biomechanical characteristics of isolated carotid atherosclerotic plaques assessed by ultrasonography

Miao LI, Lin LI, Wenfang WU, Yehui JIANG, Pingyang ZHANG

Department of Cardiovascular Ultrasound, Nanjing First Hospital, Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing, China

BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to assess the biomechanical characteristics of carotid atherosclerotic plaques using intima-media thickness (IMT) automatic tracking combined with acoustic densitometry (AD) imaging, and to elucidate the relationship between biomechanical characteristics and inflammatory activity of corresponding plaques evaluated by 18F-Fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (18F-FDG PET/CT).
METHODS: Sixty-one patients with isolated carotid atherosclerotic plaques underwent conventional carotid ultrasonography, IMT automatic tracking, and acoustic densitometry (AD) imaging. Following these assessments, patients received an 18F-FDG PET/CT scan within 24 hours. We quantified biomechanical and AD parameters including IMT strain rate (SR), IMT time strain rate (TR), and corrected average image intensity value (AIIc%) on the upstream, fibrous cap top, and downstream regions of the plaque and compared them to the reference area(normal intima adjacent to the upstream of the assessed plaque). Target background ratio (TBR) was acquired by 18F-FDG PET/CT for evaluating the inflammatory activity of corresponding plaques. We further divided all participants into an inflammatory group (TBR≥1.25) and non-inflammatory group (TBR<1.25) measures of SR/TR and AIIc% in the two groups were compared and analyzed.
RESULTS: SR/TR were significantly lower in the plaque group when compared to reference area. SR/TR at the cap top area (CTA) and downstream area (DA) of the plaques were lower than those in the reference area (P<0.05) while there was no statistically significant difference in SR or TR of the upstream area (UA) between the plaque and reference area. SR/TR were significantly greater for UA than CTA and DA (P<0.05 for both). AIIc% was significantly lower for UA and CTA than that for DA (P<0.05). The SR/TR of plaque regions were negatively correlated with corresponding AIIc% (r=-0.74, r=-0.75, P<0.05). TR in the inflammatory group was significantly lower than in the non-inflammatory group (P<0.05), while SR and AIIc% showed no statistically significant difference. TR demonstrated a significant negative correlation with TBR (r=-0.83, P<0.05). Receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC) analysis showed that the area under the curve (AUC) of TR was 0.87. Furthermore, TR less than 75.06‰ demonstrated a sensitivity of 88.0% and a specificity of 80.6% for the identification of inflammatory plaques.
CONCLUSIONS: IMT automatic tracking, combined with AD imaging, can be applied to identify the anisotropic biomechanical features of carotid plaques. This novel imaging modality may be used to provide an early assessment of the biomechanical characteristics of carotid plaques. Additionally, the TR parameter was associated with plaque inflammation reaction, possibly providing a new indicator for the early identification of plaque vulnerability.

KEY WORDS: Densitometry; Plaque, atherosclerotic; Ultrasonography

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