Discrimination of components in atherosclerotic plaques from human carotid endarterectomy specimens by magnetic resonance imaging ex vivo
Specific MRI techniques have been used to determine the dimensional and compositional properties of atherosclerotic lesions in carotid endarterectomy tissues. A quantitative comparison of areas of specific features in typical tissue segments was performed using MR images and histologic images. The mean difference for the measurements by the two methods was 4.5% for the total vessel, 5.3% for the internal carotid artery lumen, and 5.0% for the external carotid lumen. For other less abundant components, the mean difference was 14.2%. For direct characterization, individual tissue components were isolated by microdissection and their T1 and T2 relaxation times measured. Highly calcified areas typically had rather short T1 (452-837 ms) and short T2 (10.4-18.4 ms). In contrast, regions enriched in lipid had much longer T1 (1,380-1,480 ms) and longer T2 (35.3-49.0 ms). Other components such as thrombus had intermediate T1 (1,180 ms) and short T2 (15.4 ms). T2 parametric imaging was used as a complementary approach for segmentation and quantitation of tissue components. In fresh tissue, several different components exhibited different T2 ranges: calcified/solid lipid (13-18 ms). cellular/ECM (9-30 ms), fluid lipid (35-40 ms): fibrous (50-60 ms). These results demonstrate the utility of MRI for identifying and quantifying specific components of atherosclerotic plaque ex vivo, and suggest its value for these measurements in vivo as well.