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Magn Reson Imaging. 2004 Nov;22(9):1249-58.

Tracking regression and progression of atherosclerosis in human carotid arteries using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging.

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Structural and Computational Biology and Molecular Biophysics Program, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA.



Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can accurately and reproducibly measure the volume of atherosclerotic plaque in human carotid arteries. Atherosclerotic plaques may either progress or regress over time, depending on individual risk factors and treatment regimens. This study was designed to determine if regression or progression of human carotid atherosclerosis in patients receiving statin therapy over 24 months can be detected by high-resolution MRI.


In 11 subjects who had undergone unilateral carotid endarterectomy and were on statin therapy, volumes for total carotid artery, concentric wall (normal wall), eccentric wall (plaque), and lumen were quantified at 0, 16 and 24 months using a 1.5-T human imager equipped with 6-cm phased array coils.


The interobserver mean coefficient of variation (CV) was lowest for the lumen volume (3.1%) and highest for the plaque volume (9.8%). The interscan mean CV was lowest for the total artery volume (3.2%) and highest for the plaque volume (9.9%). As much as 26% regression and 35% progression were observed in individual subject's carotid artery eccentric wall (plaque) volumes over time. Mean eccentric wall volume increased 5% by 16 months and 8% by 24 months. Mean total wall volume increased slightly at both 16 and 24 months (+1.2% and +1.8%).


High-resolution MRI provides a noninvasive reproducible method of tracking changes in carotid atherosclerosis. This pilot study detected changes in individual subjects at both 16 and 24 months. MRI tracking of changes in atherosclerotic plaques should prove useful in assessing vascular disease risk and monitoring the efficacy of interventions designed to induce regression or retard progression.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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