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Atherosclerosis. 1999 Dec;147(2):327-37.

Determination of cholesterol in atherosclerotic plaques using near infrared diffuse reflection spectroscopy.

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Institute of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Technical University Dresden, Fetscherstr.74, D-01307, Dresden, Germany.


The aim of this investigation was to examine whether near infrared diffuse reflection spectroscopy is an acceptable tool for the determination of cholesterol content in atherosclerotic plaques. Using an FT-spectrophotometer (lambda=1000-2500 nm) and fiberoptic systems (d=4 mm), the cholesterol content could be determined in mixtures of the primary compounds of the aortic wall with acceptable precision. Considering the inhomogeneous distribution of cholesterol and cholesterol esters in atherosclerotic plaques the determination of total cholesterol using this method is of acceptable efficacy, even though the calibration procedure did not reflect the composition correctly. Using an energy dose of less than 100 mW/cm(2) to avoid damage to endothelial cells, arterial tissue of about 170-200 microm thickness attenuates the reflected NIRS signal by up to 50%. Cholesterol levels could be determined accurately in atherosclerotic lesions in human aortic specimens obtained by autopsy. The correlation coefficient between the NIRS results and those of HPLC analysis calculated in the investigation of 82 different areas of 18 human aortic specimens was 0.926 (y=0.869x+0. 771, external validation). Acceptable results were also achieved by means of a coronary-catheterlike fiberoptic strand (d=l mm), despite the worsened signal/noise ratio. The results show that the development of a coronary catheter using NIRS appears to be possible in principle.

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