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Radiology. 2018 Feb;286(2):622-631. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2017170127. Epub 2017 Aug 31.

Atherosclerotic Plaque Tissue: Noninvasive Quantitative Assessment of Characteristics with Software-aided Measurements from Conventional CT Angiography.

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From the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, La (M.S., W.P.N., G.R.); Elucid Bioimaging, 225 Main St, Wenham, MA 01984 (X.M., D.P., S.S.P., M.R., J.C.K., A.J.B.); Department of Quantitative Health Sciences, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio (N.A.O.); and Perlman Advisory Group, Boynton Beach, Fla (E.S.P.).


Purpose To (a) evaluate whether plaque tissue characteristics determined with conventional computed tomographic (CT) angiography could be quantitated at higher levels of accuracy by using image processing algorithms that take characteristics of the image formation process coupled with biologic insights on tissue distributions into account by comparing in vivo results and ex vivo histologic findings and (b) assess reader variability. Materials and Methods Thirty-one consecutive patients aged 43-85 years (average age, 64 years) known to have or suspected of having atherosclerosis who underwent CT angiography and were referred for endarterectomy were enrolled. Surgical specimens were evaluated with histopathologic examination to serve as standard of reference. Two readers used lumen boundary to determine scanner blur and then optimized component densities and subvoxel boundaries to best fit the observed image by using semiautomatic software. The accuracy of the resulting in vivo quantitation of calcification, lipid-rich necrotic core (LRNC), and matrix was assessed with statistical estimates of bias and linearity relative to ex vivo histologic findings. Reader variability was assessed with statistical estimates of repeatability and reproducibility. Results A total of 239 cross sections obtained with CT angiography and histologic examination were matched. Performance on held-out data showed low levels of bias and high Pearson correlation coefficients for calcification (-0.096 mm2 and 0.973, respectively), LRNC (1.26 mm2 and 0.856), and matrix (-2.44 mm2 and 0.885). Intrareader variability was low (repeatability coefficient ranged from 1.50 mm2 to 1.83 mm2 among tissue characteristics), as was interreader variability (reproducibility coefficient ranged from 2.09 mm2 to 4.43 mm2). Conclusion There was high correlation and low bias between the in vivo software image analysis and ex vivo histopathologic quantitative measures of atherosclerotic plaque tissue characteristics, as well as low reader variability. Software algorithms can mitigate the blurring and partial volume effects of routine CT angiography acquisitions to produce accurate quantification to enhance current clinical practice. Clinical trial registration no. NCT02143102 © RSNA, 2017 Online supplemental material is available for this article. An earlier incorrect version of this article appeared online. This article was corrected on September 15, 2017.

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