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J Biomed Opt. 2006 Mar-Apr;11(2):021005.

Reflection spectroscopy of atherosclerotic plaque.

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Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Department of Electronics and Telecommunications, O.S. Bragstads plass 2A, Trondheim 7491, Norway.


Heart disease is the primary cause of death in the western world. Many of these deaths are caused by the rupture of vulnerable plaque. Vulnerable plaques are characterized by a large lipid core covered by a thin fibrous cap. One method for detecting these plaques is reflection spectroscopy. Several studies have investigated this method using statistical methods. A more analytic and quantitative study might yield more insight into the sensitivity of this detection modality. This is the approach taken in this work. Reflectance spectra in the spectral region from 400 to 1700 nm are collected from 77 measurement points from 23 human aortas. A measure of lipid content in a plaque based on reflection spectra is presented. The measure of lipid content is compared with the thickness of the lipid core, determined from histology. Defining vulnerable plaque as having a lipid core >500 microm and fibrous cap <500 microm, vulnerable plaques are detected with a sensitivity of 88% and a specificity of 94%. Although the method can detect lipid content, it is not very sensitive to the thickness of the fibrous cap. Another detection modality is necessary to detect this feature.

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