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J Biomech. 2006;39(14):2611-22. Epub 2005 Oct 26.

Stress analysis of carotid plaque rupture based on in vivo high resolution MRI.

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Department of Radiology, Addenbrooke's Hospital and University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 2QQ, United Kingdom.


Atheromatous carotid plaque rupture is responsible for the majority of ischaemic strokes in the developed world. Plaque rupture has been associated with plaque morphology, plaque components' properties, inflammation and local stress concentration. High resolution multi-spectral magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has allowed the plaque components to be visualized in vivo. This study combined the recent advances in finite element analysis (FEA) and MRI, and performed stress analysis of five vulnerable carotid plaques based on the geometry derived from in vivo MRI. Image segmentation was based on multi-spectral MRI and co-registered with histology for plaque characterization. Plaque fibrous cap, lipid pool and vessel wall were modelled as isotropic, incompressible hyperelastic materials undergoing large deformation under pulse pressure loading. High stress concentrations were predicted at the shoulders and the thinnest fibrous cap regions of the plaque, and the mean maximal stresses were found to be higher in the ruptured plaques (683.3 kPa) than those in the unruptured plaques (226.9 kPa). The effect of the relative stiffness of fibrous cap to lipid pool on the stress within the cap itself was studied. It was shown that larger relative stiffness of fibrous cap to lipid pool resulted in higher stress within the cap. Thus, it is likely that high stress concentrations in vulnerable plaque may cause plaque rupture and lead to acute ischaemic sequelae. A combination of in vivo high resolution MRI and FEA could potentially act as a useful tool to assess plaque vulnerability and risk stratify patients with carotid atheroma.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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