(Shear) Strain Imaging Used in Noninvasive Detection of Vulnerable Plaques in the Carotid Arterial Wall



The primary trigger for myocardial infarction and stroke is destabilization of atherosclerotic plaques. The chance of a plaque to rupture is related to its composition and geometry. Ultrasound (shear) strain imaging allows assessment of local tissue mechanics and possible risk assessment of vulnerable plaques. Intravascularly, in coronary arteries using a catheter, strain imaging has been demonstrated to be successful. At different intraluminal pressures, ultrasound data of the artery wall were recorded and local radial strains were estimated using cross-correlation methods. It has been shown in vitro and in vivo that softer lipidic plaques can be distinguished from harder fibrous and calcified plaques on basis of their strain values.

However, plaque rupture often occurs without preceding clinical symptoms. A relatively cheap noninvasive technique would make it possible to screen people before an actual cardiovascular event occurs and possibly give a risk assessment of the plaques present. Given the successful results of intravascular strain imaging, noninvasive versions of the technique are being developed by multiple research centers. These techniques focus on (shear) strain imaging of the carotid artery wall. At the moment, most of these techniques have been shown to give promising results for simulated and experimental data of vessel-like phantoms. Furthermore, the first in vivo results show good correspondence between calcifications and histology. A few studies also show in vivo reproducibility of the technique.

Various methods for noninvasive ultrasound strain imaging have been developed, and the first results demonstrate the potential of the methods to detect vulnerable plaques. Further validation of these methods will open the door for clinical screening of plaques.


Ultrasound Strain imaging Compounding Shear strain Vulnerable plaque detection 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pediatrics, Clinical Physics Laboratory, CUKZ 833Radboud University Nijmegen Medical CenterNijmegenThe Netherlands

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