Purpose: High resolution magnetic resonance imaging (HRMRI) has been used as an imaging modality to depict the intracranial artery wall. The aim of this study was to compare images of the vessel wall between symptomatic and asymptomatic atherosclerotic plaques of the middle cerebral artery (MCA) using HRMRI.
Materials and methods: From September 2009 to August 2010 we prospectively screened consecutive patients for MCA stenosis using time-of-flight (TOF) MR angiography. We studied 14 patients with symptomatic MCA stenosis and 16 patients with asymptomatic MCA stenosis. The HRMRI protocol included three different scans: T1-, T2-, and proton density (PD)-weighted black blood MRI. The cross-sectional images of the MCA wall on HRMRI were compared between the two groups based on the degree of stenosis, remodeling ratio, outward or inward remodeling, plaque signal intensity, plaque surface irregularity, and presence of an intact inner wall.
Results: The degree of MCA stenosis and the ratio of plaque thickening to patent lumen in the symptomatic group were significantly higher than in the asymptomatic group. Outward remodeling of the stenotic area in symptomatic group was significantly higher than that seen in the asymptomatic group, and the reverse was true for inward remodeling of the stenotic area (it was significantly higher in the asymptomatic group compared to the symptomatic group). T2- and PD-weighted high signal foci, eccentric wall thickening, and plaque volume in the stenotic area were all similar between the two groups.
Conclusions: HRMRI has the potential to distinguish between atherosclerotic plaques in symptomatic and asymptomatic MCA stenoses.
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