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Circ J. 2009 Oct;73(10):1765-73. Epub 2009 Sep 15.

Carotid magnetic resonance imaging. A window to study atherosclerosis and identify high-risk plaques.

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Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, Sendai, Japan.


Despite recent advances in the understanding and etiology of cardiovascular disease, it remains the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. A great deal of research has been dedicated to investigating and identifying plaque instability: the so-called "vulnerable plaque". A reliable, in vivo, imaging method capable of identifying plaque characteristics associated with high-risk plaque will be immensely useful for evaluating plaque status and predicting future events. With excellent soft-tissue contrast and resolution, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has the ability to visualize features of vulnerable plaques, as well as perform longitudinal studies on the etiology, progression, and regression of atherosclerotic plaque. This review will cover the current state-of-the-art and new developments in carotid MRI to characterize atherosclerosis and its use in clinical diagnoses and longitudinal studies to understand mechanisms of lesion progression and regression.

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