Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare the accuracy of 64-MDCT with that of intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) for the identification and quantitative analysis of coronary atherosclerotic plaques.
Materials and methods: Twenty-six patients (17 men, nine women; mean age, 56 years) with suspected coronary atherosclerotic disease were studied using contrast-enhanced 64-MDCT and IVUS. The coronary arteries were divided into 10-mm segments and vascular cross-sectional area (CSA), luminal CSA, and plaque burden were measured in each segment. Plaque analysis software was used to automatically detect both plaques and vessel walls on CT images. Two investigators who were blinded to IVUS results independently determined the presence, classification, and quantitative measurement of atherosclerotic plaques on the CT images, which were then compared with the IVUS images.
Results: Of 40 coronary arteries, 247 of 263 segments were imaged and analyzed by both contrast-enhanced 64-MDCT and IVUS. Sixteen segments were ruled out because of poor CT image quality. Compared with IVUS, 64-MDCT enabled correct detection in 86 of 89 (96.6%) segments containing noncalcified plaques, 25 of 27 (92.6%) segments containing calcified plaques, and 118 of 131 (90.1%) segments without atherosclerotic plaques. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value for the detection of plaques by 64-MDCT were 97.4%, 90.1%, 89.7%, and 97.5%, respectively. Plaque analysis software using predetermined Hounsfield unit ranges for different components of plaque was able to distinguish between fibrous, fibrous-soft, and calcified plaques to a significant degree, but was less able to distinguish between soft and fibrous, and between soft and fibrous-soft plaque. Cohen's kappa coefficient for the sole detection of atherosclerotic segments by observers was 0.91. The correlation coefficients to determine vascular CSA, luminal CSA, and plaque burden were r = 0.85, 0.82, and 0.77, respectively (p < 0.01).
Conclusion: Compared with IVUS, contrast-enhanced 64-MDCT has a good ability to identify and quantify coronary atherosclerotic plaques. However, the reliable differentiation of the composition of noncalcified plaques is still limited.