Association between biomechanical structural stresses of atherosclerotic carotid plaques and subsequent ischaemic cerebrovascular events–a longitudinal in vivo magnetic resonance imaging-based finite element study.


Background: High-resolution magnetic resonance (MR) imaging has been used for MR imaging-based structural stress analysis of atherosclerotic plaques. The biomechanical stress profile of stable plaques has been observed to differ from that of unstable plaques; however, the role that structural stresses play in determining plaque vulnerability remains speculative. Methods: A total of 61 patients with previous history of symptomatic carotid artery disease underwent carotid plaque MR imaging. Plaque components of the index artery such as fibrous tissue, lipid content and plaque haemorrhage (PH) were delineated and used for finite element analysis-based maximum structural stress (M-C Stress) quantification. These patients were followed up for 2 years. The clinical end point was occurrence of an ischaemic cerebrovascular event. The association of the time to the clinical end point with plaque morphology and M-C Stress was analysed. Results: During a median follow-up duration of 514 days, 20% of patients (n=12) experienced an ischaemic event in the territory of the index carotid artery. Cox regression analysis indicated that M-C Stress (hazard ratio (HR): 12.98 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.32-26.67, pZ0.02), fibrous cap (FC) disruption (HR: 7.39 (95% CI: 1.61e33.82), p Z 0.009) and PH (HR: 5.85 (95% CI: 1.27e26.77), p Z 0.02) are associated with the development of subsequent cerebrovascular events. Plaques associated with future events had higher M-C Stress than those which had remained asymptomatic (median (interquartile range, IQR): 330 kPa (229e494) vs. 254 kPa (166-290), p Z0.04). Conclusions: High biomechanical structural stresses, in addition to FC rupture and PH, are associated with subsequent cerebrovascular events. © 2010 European Society for Vascular Surgery.