Noninvasive imaging of carotid artery plaque with MRI can accurately predict future cardiovascular events like strokes and heart attacks in people without a history of cardiovascular disease, according to a new study published online in the journal Radiology.
Researchers have long known that some arterial plaque is more dangerous because of its vulnerability to rupture. MRI can discern features of vulnerable plaque, such as a lipid core with a thin fibrous cap. This ability makes MRI a potentially valuable tool for identifying patients at risk for subsequent cardiovascular events.
This shows transverse gadolinium-enhanced T1-weighted MR images obtained superior to the carotid artery bifurcation in a 72-year-old man. L = ICA lumen. (a) Low-signal-intensity calcium (arrow) and lipid core (arrowheads) can be seen. (b) Note contouring of the ICA. The outer adventitial wall (red), lipid core (blue), calcification (green), and vessel lumen (purple) are visible.
Credit: Radiological Society of North America
To study the predictive value of MRI plaque imaging, researchers performed carotid artery ultrasound and MRI on 946 asymptomatic patients from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). The carotid arteries are the large vessels located on each side of the neck that carry oxygenated blood to the front part of the brain. They are highly accessible for imaging, and their condition tends to mirror that of the coronary arteries that supply the heart with oxygenated blood.
The researchers used ultrasound to assess carotid wall thickness and MRI to define carotid plaque composition and the remodeling index, a measure of changes in vessel size. Imaging results were compared with cardiovascular events, including heart attacks, stroke and death, for an average of 5.5 years after examination.
"We studied asymptomatic individuals with a low risk of cardiovascular events at baseline and used noninvasive imaging to predict the risk of an event downstream," said David A. Bluemke, M.D, Ph.D., from the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md. "This is the first population-based prospective study to determine if vulnerable plaque features by MRI add to the risk of a cardiovascular event beyond the traditional risk factors."
Cardiovascular events occurred in 59 of the patients. Abnormal thickening of the carotid artery wall and the presence of a lipid core and calcium in the internal carotid artery on MRI were significant predictors of subsequent events. A lipid core was present in almost half of the patients who had an event, compared with only 17.8 percent of those who did not have an event.
"The primary factors that predicted future risk were measures of vessel wall thickness in combination with the presence or absence of a lipid core," Dr. Bluemke said. "The presence of a lipid core was 50 percent more common in people who had subsequent events."
Use of MRI improved the reclassification of baseline cardiovascular risk in the study group. When both the carotid remodeling index and lipid core were used for risk stratification, approximately 16 percent more patients with events and 7 percent without events were correctly reclassified compared with the use of traditional risk factors.
"The results bolster the use of MRI as a surrogate marker of efficacy in therapeutic studies and point to a role in determining which patients might need more aggressive treatments," Dr. Bluemke said. "As risk factor prediction gets better, we'll be able to screen more intelligently and use more intensive treatments in those individuals who face a higher risk of cardiovascular events."
Dr. Bluemke noted that sequences for plaque composition could be readily added to existing carotid MRI angiography protocols for clinical purposes.
"Carotid MRI has significant advantages," he said. "The results are more reproducible than those of ultrasound."
Availability and cost effectiveness could limit the use of MRI, Dr. Bluemke cautioned. However, ultrasound and computed tomography (CT) are viable alternatives for screening, he said, especially with improvements in CT dose reduction.
"Carotid Artery Plaque Morphology and Composition in Relation to Incident Cardiovascular Events: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)." Collaborating with Dr. Bluemke were Anna E. H. Zavodni, M.D., Bruce A. Wasserman, M.D., Robyn L. McClelland, Ph.D., Antoinette S. Gomes, M.D., Aaron R. Folsom, M.D., M.P.H., Joseph F. Polak, M.D., M.P.H., and João A. C. Lima, M.D.
Radiology is edited by Herbert Y. Kressel, M.D., Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass., and owned and published by the Radiological Society of North America, Inc.
RSNA is an association of more than 53,000 radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists and related scientists promoting excellence in patient care and health care delivery through education, research and technologic innovation. The Society is based in Oak Brook, Ill.
For patient-friendly information on MRI, visit RadiologyInfo.org.
Linda Brooks | EurekAlert!
3-D visualization of the pancreas -- new tool in diabetes research
15.03.2017 | Umea University
New PET radiotracer identifies inflammation in life-threatening atherosclerosis
02.03.2017 | Society of Nuclear Medicine
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences