Imaging Atherosclerosis

Circ Res. 2016 Feb 19;118(4):750-69. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.115.306247.


Advances in atherosclerosis imaging technology and research have provided a range of diagnostic tools to characterize high-risk plaque in vivo; however, these important vascular imaging methods additionally promise great scientific and translational applications beyond this quest. When combined with conventional anatomic- and hemodynamic-based assessments of disease severity, cross-sectional multimodal imaging incorporating molecular probes and other novel noninvasive techniques can add detailed interrogation of plaque composition, activity, and overall disease burden. In the catheterization laboratory, intravascular imaging provides unparalleled access to the world beneath the plaque surface, allowing tissue characterization and measurement of cap thickness with micrometer spatial resolution. Atherosclerosis imaging captures key data that reveal snapshots into underlying biology, which can test our understanding of fundamental research questions and shape our approach toward patient management. Imaging can also be used to quantify response to therapeutic interventions and ultimately help predict cardiovascular risk. Although there are undeniable barriers to clinical translation, many of these hold-ups might soon be surpassed by rapidly evolving innovations to improve image acquisition, coregistration, motion correction, and reduce radiation exposure. This article provides a comprehensive review of current and experimental atherosclerosis imaging methods and their uses in research and potential for translation to the clinic.

Keywords: atherosclerosis; coronary artery disease; molecular imaging; multimodal imaging; risk factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Coronary Angiography
  • Coronary Artery Disease / diagnosis*
  • Coronary Vessels* / diagnostic imaging
  • Coronary Vessels* / pathology
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • Multimodal Imaging
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional