Over the past several decades, significant progress has been made in the pathohistological assessment of vulnerable plaques and in invasive intravascular imaging techniques. However, the assessment of plaque morphology by invasive modalities is of limited value for the detection of subclinical coronary atherosclerosis and the subsequent prediction or prevention of acute cardiovascular events. Recently, magnetic resonance (MR) imaging technology has reached a sufficient level of spatial resolution, which allowed the plaque visualization of large and static arteries such as the carotids and aorta. However, coronary wall imaging by MR is still challenging due to the small size of coronary arteries, cardiac and respiratory motion, and the low contrast-to-noise ratio between the coronary artery wall and the surrounding structures. Following the introduction of carotid plaque imaging with noncontrast T1-weighted imaging (T1WI), some investigators have reported that coronary artery high-intensity signals on T1WI are associated with vulnerable plaque morphology and an increased risk of future cardiac events. Although there are several limitations and issues that need to be resolved, this novel MR technique for coronary plaque imaging could influence treatment strategies for atherothrombotic disease and may be useful for understanding the pathophysiological mechanisms of atherothrombotic plaque formation.
Keywords: acute coronary syndrome; atherosclerosis; intraplaque hemorrhage; magnetic resonance imaging; plaque; thrombosis.