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Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 2015 Nov;50(5):563-72. doi: 10.1016/j.ejvs.2015.06.113. Epub 2015 Aug 19.

Non-invasive Carotid Artery Imaging to Identify the Vulnerable Plaque: Current Status and Future Goals.

Author information

1
Department of Brain Repair and Rehabilitation, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, UK; Department of Vascular Surgery, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
2
Department of Vascular Surgery, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
3
Institute of Nuclear Medicine, University College London, London, UK.
4
Department of Brain Repair and Rehabilitation, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, UK.
5
Division of Surgery and Interventional Science, University College London, London, UK.
6
Division of Surgery and Interventional Science, University College London, London, UK. Electronic address: toby.richards@ucl.ac.uk.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The current clinical practise to determine if a patient should undergo carotid intervention to prevent stroke is to determine the clinical features combined with degree of carotid stenosis. However, this does not accurately determine the individual patient's risk for future stroke. A thin fibrous cap, a large lipid core, high macrophage count, and intraplaque haemorrhage have all been identified as markers of the so-called "vulnerable" plaque being related to a higher stroke risk. There is a need to assess the accuracy of in vivo imaging to identify vulnerable plaque characteristics, thereby enabling in vivo risk stratification to guide clinical decision-making.

METHODS:

The aim of this topical review is to assess the roles of currently available imaging modalities that are applied in clinical practice and those experimental techniques that are close to clinical translation in defining carotid plaque characteristics and in informing clinical practice.

RESULTS:

Ultrasound is a low cost and ready available low-risk tool, but it lacks the accuracy to reliably detect individual plaque components and characteristics. Computed tomography is considered to be the best imaging technique to identify calcification in the carotid plaque. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can identify most described plaque characteristics with moderate to good agreement. Positron emission tomography allows assessment of specific metabolic functions with tracers labelled with positron emitting radio-isotopes, but limited spatial resolution makes anatomic precision imprecise.

CONCLUSION:

MRI has demonstrated the most potential, with good sensitivity and specificity for most plaque characteristics. However, currently there is no single imaging modality that can reliably identify the vulnerable plaque in relation to development of future stroke.

KEYWORDS:

Carotid artery; Non-invasive imaging; Vulnerable plaque

PMID:
26298222
DOI:
10.1016/j.ejvs.2015.06.113
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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