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Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther. 2011 Jan;9(1):63-80. doi: 10.1586/erc.10.172.

Carotid MRI: a tool for monitoring individual response to cardiovascular therapy?

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Department of Medicine, Division of Medical Genetics, University of Washington, 1705 NE Pacific Street, K253, Box 357720, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


Stroke remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. While stroke-related mortality has declined over the past four decades, data indicate that the mortality rate has begun to plateau. This change in trend may be attributable to variation in individual response to therapies that were derived from population-based studies. Further reductions in stroke mortality may require individualized care governed by directly monitoring the effects of cardiovascular therapy. In this article, carotid MRI is considered as a tool for monitoring in vivo carotid atherosclerotic disease, a principal etiology of stroke. Carotid MRI has been previously utilized to identify specific plaque features beyond luminal stenosis that are predictive of transient ischemic attack and stroke. To gain perspective on the possibility of monitoring plaque change within the individual, clinical trials and natural history studies that have used serial carotid MRI are considered. Data from these studies indicate that patients with a lipid-rich necrotic core with or without intraplaque hemorrhage may represent the desired phenotype for monitoring treatment effects in the individual. Advances in tissue-specific sequences, acquisition resolution, scan time, and techniques for monitoring inflammation and mechanical forces are expected to enable earlier detection of response to therapy. In so doing, cost-effective multicenter studies can be conducted to confirm the anticipated positive effects on outcomes of using carotid MRI for individualized care in patients with carotid atherosclerosis. In accordance, carotid MRI is poised to emerge as a powerful clinical tool for individualized management of carotid atherosclerotic disease to prevent stroke.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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