Three-dimensional registration of histology of human atherosclerotic carotid plaques to in-vivo imaging
An accurate spatial relationship between 3D in-vivo carotid plaque and lumen imaging and histological cross sections is required to study the relationship between biomechanical parameters and atherosclerotic plaque components. We present and evaluate a fully three-dimensional approach for this registration problem, which accounts for deformations that occur during the processing of the specimens. By using additional imaging steps during tissue processing and semi-automated non-linear registration techniques, a 3D-reconstruction of the histology is obtained.The methodology was evaluated on five specimens obtained from patients, operated for severe atherosclerosis in the carotid bifurcation. In more than 80% of the histology slices, the quality of the semi-automated registration with computed tomography angiography (CTA) was equal to or better than the manual registration. The inter-observer variability was between one and two in-vivo CT voxels and was equal to the manual inter-observer variability. Our technique showed that the angles between the normals of the registered histology slices and the in-vivo CTA scan direction ranged 6-56°, indicating that proper 3D-registration is crucial for establishing a correct spatial relation with in-vivo imaging modalities. This new 3D-reconstruction technique of atherosclerotic plaque tissue opens new avenues in the field of biomechanics as well as in the field of image processing, where it can be used for validation purposes of segmentation algorithms.