Intravascular imaging of atherosclerotic human coronaries in a porcine model: a feasibility study

Int J Cardiovasc Imaging. 2008 Jan;24(1):37-44. doi: 10.1007/s10554-007-9227-7. Epub 2007 May 15.


Objectives: To perform intravascular imaging of atherosclerotic human coronary conduits in an animal model under conditions of flow and cardiac motion that approximate those encountered in vivo.

Background: Given the lack of animal models of vulnerable plaque, a model which would allow imaging of human disease and simulate coronary motion and blood flow could advance the development of emerging technologies to detect vulnerable plaques.

Methods: Human coronary segments from adult cadaver hearts were prepared as xenografts. In anesthetized Yorkshire pigs (45-50 kg) the chest was opened and the exposed aorta and right atrium were cannulated and attached in an end-to-end fashion to the human coronary xenograft, forming an aorto-atrial conduit. The xenograft was fixed to the anterior wall of the heart to simulate motion. Angiography and intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) of each graft were performed.

Results: Twelve human coronary grafts (10 from right coronary segments) were prepared and implanted successfully in seven animals. All animals tolerated the procedure. The average graft length was 39 +/- 2.3 mm. Blood flow rates distal to the graft were >100 ml/min in nine grafts. IVUS was performed in all 12 grafts and documented expansion of arterial (6.9%) and luminal (9.3%) dimensions during the cardiac cycle (P < 0.001 for both). There was a wide range of coronary atherosclerotic pathology within the grafts, including intimal thickening, fibrocalcific plaque, and deep lipid pools.

Conclusion: This human-to-porcine coronary xenograft model allows intravascular imaging of human coronary pathology under conditions of blood flow and motion, and may be used to develop technologies aimed at identifying high-risk plaques.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Coronary Angiography*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Coronary Artery Disease / pathology*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / physiopathology
  • Coronary Artery Disease / surgery
  • Coronary Vessels / diagnostic imaging
  • Coronary Vessels / pathology*
  • Coronary Vessels / physiopathology
  • Coronary Vessels / surgery
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Research Design
  • Swine
  • Transplantation, Heterologous
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional*