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Atherosclerosis. 2009 May;204(1):156-64. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2008.08.035. Epub 2008 Sep 6.

Detection of rupture-prone atherosclerotic plaques by time-resolved laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy.

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University of California Davis, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Davis, CA 95616, USA.



Plaque with dense inflammatory cells, including macrophages, thin fibrous cap and superficial necrotic/lipid core is thought to be prone-to-rupture. We report a time-resolved laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy (TR-LIFS) technique for detection of such markers of plaque vulnerability in human plaques.


The autofluorescence of carotid plaques (65 endarterectomy patients) induced by a pulsed laser (337 nm, 0.7 ns) was measured from 831 distinct areas. The emission was resolved spectrally (360-550 nm range) and temporally (0.3 ns resolution) using a prototype fiber-optic TR-LIFS apparatus. Lesions were evaluated microscopically and quantified as to the % of different components (fibrous cap, necrotic core, inflammatory cells, foam cells, mature and degraded collagen, elastic fibers, calcification, and smooth muscle cell of the vessel wall).


We determined that the spectral intensities and time-dependent parameters at discrete emission wavelengths (1) allow for discrimination (sensitivity >81%, specificity >94%) of various compositional and pathological features associated with plaque vulnerability including infiltration of macrophages into intima and necrotic/lipid core under a thin fibrous cap, and (2) show a linear correlation with plaque biochemical content: elastin (P<0.008), collagen (P<0.02), inflammatory cells (P<0.003), necrosis (P<0.004).


Our results demonstrate the feasibility of TR-LIFS as a method for the identification of markers of plaque vulnerability. Current findings enable future development of TR-LIFS-based clinical devices for rapid investigation of atherosclerotic plaques and detection of those at high-risk.

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