On the overestimation of early wall thickening at the carotid bulb by black blood MRI, with implications for coronary and vulnerable plaque imaging

Magn Reson Med. 2008 Nov;60(5):1020-8. doi: 10.1002/mrm.21758.


Black blood MRI is an attractive tool for monitoring normal and pathological wall thickening; however, limited spatial resolutions can conspire with complex vascular geometries to distort the appearance of the wall in ways hitherto unclear. To elucidate this, a thin-walled cylinder model was developed to predict the composite effects of obliqueness, in-plane resolution and voxel anisotropy on the accuracy of MRI-derived wall thickness measurements. These predictions were validated by means of imaging of a thin-walled carotid bifurcation phantom. Typical thick-slice axial acquisitions were found to result in artifactual wall thickening at the carotid bulb, owing to its obliqueness to the nominal imaging plane. Obliqueness was less problematic for near-isotropic resolutions; however, the obligatory reduction of in-plane resolution served to inflate wall thicknesses uniformly by up to 50%. Moreover, the nonlinear relationship between wall thickness and its overestimation served to mask genuine differences in wall thickness, an effect predicted to be worse for thinner coronary artery walls and plaque caps. Therefore, care must be taken when interpreting black blood MRI wall thickness measurements in the presence-or absence-of observed differences within or between individuals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Artifacts*
  • Carotid Arteries / pathology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Coronary Stenosis / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Cine / methods*
  • Models, Cardiovascular*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity