Stress analysis of carotid plaque based on in vivo MRI of acute symptomatic and asymptomatic patients


Stress analysis within carotid plaques based on in vivo MR imaging has shown to be useful for the identification of vulnerable atheroma. This study is to investigate whether magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) based-biomechanical stress analysis of carotid plaques can differentiate acute symptomatic and asymptomatic patients. 54 asymptomatic and 45 acute symptomatic patients underwent in vivo multi-contrast MRI of the carotid arteries. Plaque geometry used for finite element analysis was derived from in vivo MR images at the site of maximum and minimum plaque burden. In total 198 slices were used for the computational simulations. A pre shrink technique was used to refine the simulation. Maximum principle stress at the vulnerable plaque sites (i.e. critical stress) was extracted for the selected slices and a comparison was performed between the two groups. Critical stress at the site of maximum plaque burden is significantly higher in acute symptomatic patients as compared to asymptomatic patients [median: 198.0kPa (inter quartile range (IQR) = (119.8 - 359.0) vs. 138.4kPa (83.8, 242.6), p=0.04]. No significant difference was found at the minimum plaque burden site between the two groups [196.7kPa (133.3- 282.7) vs. 182.4kPa (117.2 - 310. 6), p=0.82). Stress analysis at the site of maximal plaque burden can be effectively used for differentiating acute symptomatic carotid plaques from asymptomatic plaques. This maybe potentially used for development of biomechanical risk stratification criteria based on plaque burden in future studies. © 2010 International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering.