Carotid plaque imaging and the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease

Cardiovasc Diagn Ther. 2020 Aug;10(4):1048-1067. doi: 10.21037/cdt.2020.03.10.


Carotid artery plaque is a measure of atherosclerosis and is associated with future risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), which encompasses coronary, cerebrovascular, and peripheral arterial diseases. With advanced imaging techniques, computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have shown their potential superiority to routine ultrasound to detect features of carotid plaque vulnerability, such as intraplaque hemorrhage (IPH), lipid-rich necrotic core (LRNC), fibrous cap (FC), and calcification. The correlation between imaging features and histological changes of carotid plaques has been investigated. Imaging of carotid features has been used to predict the risk of cardiovascular events. Other techniques such as nuclear imaging and intra-vascular ultrasound (IVUS) have also been proposed to better understand the vulnerable carotid plaque features. In this article, we review the studies of imaging specific carotid plaque components and their correlation with risk scores.

Keywords: Radiology; atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD); carotid plaque; risk score.

Publication types

  • Review