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Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2014 Jun;37(3):572-85. doi: 10.1007/s00270-013-0711-2. Epub 2013 Aug 3.

Imaging of the carotid artery vulnerable plaque.

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Department of Radiology, Azienda Ospedaliero Universitaria (A.O.U.), di Cagliari - Polo di Monserrato, s.s. 554, 09045, Monserrato, Cagliari, Italy,


Atherosclerosis involving the carotid arteries has a high prevalence in the population worldwide. This condition is significant because accidents of the carotid artery plaque are associated with the development of cerebrovascular events. For this reason, carotid atherosclerotic disease needs to be diagnosed and those determinants that are associated to an increased risk of stroke need to be identified. The degree of stenosis typically has been considered the parameter of choice to determine the therapeutical approach, but several recently published investigations have demonstrated that the degree of luminal stenosis is only an indirect indicator of the atherosclerotic process and that direct assessment of the plaque structure and composition may be key to predict the development of future cerebrovascular ischemic events. The concept of "vulnerable plaque" was born, referring to those plaque's parameters that concur to the instability of the plaque making it more prone to the rupture and distal embolization. The purpose of this review is to describe the imaging characteristics of "vulnerable carotid plaques."

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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