[Micro-computed tomography of the vasculature in parenchymal organs and lung alveoli]

Rofo. 2004 Sep;176(9):1219-25. doi: 10.1055/s-2004-813403.
[Article in German]


Micro-CT has become a powerful technique in non-destructive 3D imaging and morphometric analysis. First results were limited to the investigation of osteoporosis in cancellous bone. But the availability of systems with almost microscopic resolution and sufficient soft tissue contrast has opened up entirely new applications for laboratory investigation of blood vessels and soft tissues. This article gives an overview of micro-CT technology and the potential of three-dimensional imaging of the vessel wall and soft-tissue architecture imaging in different organs using different contrast perfusion and staining techniques. Micro-CT provides quantitative information on human plaque morphology equivalent to histomorphometric analysis. Based on differences in grey-scale attenuations, micro-CT also correctly identifies atherosclerotic lesions that are histologically classified as fibrous plaques, calcified lesions, fibroatheroma, and lipid rich lesions. Micro-CT is a promising method to visualize the architecture of the renal vasculature and, importantly, to separate cortex and medulla for the visualization of glomeruli and their afferent and efferent arterioles. Micro-CT can determine the vascular surface in a defined placental volume. Combining of micro-CT data and total placental volume enables an estimation of the approximate surface of the placental vasculature. The diameter of opacified vessels in the investigated samples ranged from 2 mm (chorion plate artery) to 14 micro m (smallest vessel diameter, terminal loop). Recognizing that lung parenchyma can only be visualized if the alveoli are completely expanded and the contrast of the thin alveolar walls is enhanced, we tested two preparation methods: (1) fixation of lung tissue with formalin vapour and staining with silver nitrate, and (2) intravenous injection of a barium sulfate-gelatine-thymol mixture in vivo in the anesthetized animal. We evaluated the ability of this mixture to enter the pulmonary microcirculation and the technical feasibility of micro-CT to assess lung micro-architecture.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arterioles / diagnostic imaging
  • Arteriosclerosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Arteriosclerosis / pathology
  • Blood Vessels* / pathology
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Histological Techniques
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microcirculation*
  • Microradiography*
  • Placenta / blood supply
  • Placenta / diagnostic imaging
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / diagnostic imaging*
  • Rabbits
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*