Imaging modalities to diagnose carotid artery stenosis: progress and prospect

Biomed Eng Online. 2019 May 28;18(1):66. doi: 10.1186/s12938-019-0685-7.


In the past few decades, imaging has been developed to a high level of sophistication. Improvements from one-dimension (1D) to 2D images, and from 2D images to 3D models, have revolutionized the field of imaging. This not only helps in diagnosing various critical and fatal diseases in the early stages but also contributes to making informed clinical decisions on the follow-up treatment profile. Carotid artery stenosis (CAS) may potentially cause debilitating stroke, and its accurate early detection is therefore important. In this paper, the technical development of various CAS diagnosis imaging modalities and its impact on the clinical efficacy is thoroughly reviewed. These imaging modalities include duplex ultrasound (DUS), computed tomography angiography (CTA) and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA). For each of the imaging modalities considered, imaging methodology (principle), critical imaging parameters, and the extent of imaging the vulnerable plaque are discussed. DUS is usually the initial recommended CAS diagnostic examination. However, for the therapeutic intervention, either MRA or CTA is recommended for confirmation, and for added information on intracranial cerebral circulation and aortic arch condition for procedural planning. Over the past few decades, the focus of CAS diagnosis has also shifted from pure stenosis quantification to plaque characterization. This has led to further advancement in the existing imaging tools and development of other potential imaging tools like Optical coherence tomography (OCT), photoacoustic tomography (PAT), and infrared (IR) thermography.

Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Carotid artery stenosis; Computed tomography angiography; Diagnosis; Duplex ultrasound; Infrared thermography; Magnetic resonance angiography; Optical coherence tomography; Photoacoustic tomography.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carotid Stenosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Humans