Integrated cardiovascular assessment of atherosclerosis using PET/MRI.


Atherosclerosis is a systemic inflammatory disease typified by the development of lipid-rich atheroma (plaques), the rupture of which are a major cause of myocardial infarction and stroke. Anatomical evaluation of the plaque considering only the degree of luminal stenosis overlooks features associated with vulnerable plaques, such as high-risk morphological features or pathophysiology, and hence risks missing vulnerable or ruptured non-stenotic plaques. Consequently, there has been interest in identifying these markers of vulnerability using either MRI for morphology, or positron emission tomography (PET) for physiological processes involved in atherogenesis. The advent of hybrid PET/MRI scanners offers the potential to combine the strengths of PET and MRI to allow comprehensive assessment of the atherosclerotic plaque. This review will discuss the principles and technical aspects of hybrid PET/MRI assessment of atherosclerosis, and consider how combining the complementary modalities of PET and MRI has already furthered our understanding of atherogenesis, advanced drug development, and how it may hold potential for clinical application.