Article ID: mp.2018-0077
Purpose: Identifying plaque components such as intraplaque hemorrhage, lipid rich necrosis, and calcification is important to evaluate vulnerability of carotid atherosclerotic plaque; however, conventional vessel wall MR imaging may fail to discriminate plaque components. We aimed to evaluate the components of plaques using quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM), a newly developed post-processing technique to provide voxel-based quantitative susceptibilities.
Methods: Seven patients scheduled for carotid endarterectomy were enrolled. Magnitude and phase images of five-echo 3D fast low angle shot (FLASH) were obtained using a 3T MRI, and QSM was calculated from the phase images. Conventional carotid vessel wall images (black-blood T1-weighted images [T1WI], T2-weighted images [T2WI], proton-density weighted images [PDWI], and time-of-flight images [TOF]) were also obtained. Pathological findings including intraplaque hemorrhage, calcification, and lipid rich necrosis at the thickest plaque section were correlated with relative susceptibility values with respect to the sternocleidomastoid muscle on QSM. On conventional vessel wall images, the contrast–noise ratio (CNR) between the three components and sternocleidomastoid muscle was measured respectively. Wilcoxon signed-rank test analyses were performed to assess the relative susceptibility values and CNR.
Results: Pathologically, lipid rich necrosis was proved in all of seven cases, and intraplaque hemorrhage in five of seven cases. Mean relative susceptibility value of hemorrhage was higher than lipid rich necrosis unexceptionally (P = 0.0313). There were no significant differences between CNR of hemorrhage and lipid rich necrosis on all sequences. In all six cases with plaque calcification, susceptibility value of calcification was significantly lower than lipid rich necrosis unexceptionally (P = 0.0156). There were significant differences between CNRs of lipid rich necrosis and calcification on T1WI, PDWI, TOF (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: QSM of carotid plaque would provide a novel quantitative MRI contrast that enables reliable differentiation among intraplaque hemorrhage, lipid rich necrosis, and calcification, and be useful to identify vulnerable plaques.