High-resolution MRI provides unique information about morphology of atherosclerotic carotid plaque. In this study, the accuracy and precision of measurements of carotid plaque burden and lumen narrowing were determined for in vivo black blood MRI assessment with respect to ex vivo MRI in a group of 37 atherosclerosis patients who underwent carotid endarterectomy (CEA). Three different plaque measures were compared between paired in vivo and ex vivo MR images: maximum wall area (MWA), minimum lumen area (mLA), and wall volume (WV). MWA and WV are measures of plaque burden, while mLA is a measure of lumen narrowing. The matched in vivo and ex vivo measurements showed good agreement (the correlation coefficients for in/ex vivo WV, MWA, and mLA were 0.92, 0.91, 0.90, respectively) with predictable bias. This study indicates that in vivo black blood MRI can be used to directly estimate the morphology of the plaque. Comparison of the three plaque measures showed that mLA and MWA or WV provide different information regarding the atherosclerotic lesions (the correlation coefficients between mLA and MWA or WV were less than 0.3). Black blood MRI technique is a potentially powerful clinical tool to characterize the severity of atherosclerotic plaque. It can provide accurate measurements on different aspects of the plaque, from plaque burden to lumen narrowing.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.