Rupture of atherosclerotic plaques is the underlying cause for the majority of acute strokes and myocardial infarctions. Rupture of the plaque occurs when the stress in the plaque exceeds the strength of the material locally. Biomechanical stress analyses are commonly based on pressurized geometries, in most cases measured by in-vivo MRI. The geometry is therefore not stress-free. The aim of this study is to identify the effect of neglecting the initial stress state on the plaque stress distribution. Fifty 2D histological sections (7 patients, 9 diseased coronary artery segments), perfusion fixed at 100. mmHg, were segmented and finite element models were created. The Backward Incremental method was applied to determine the initial stress state and the zero-pressure state. Peak plaque and cap stresses were compared with and without initial stress. The effect of initial stress on the peak stress was related to the minimum cap thickness, maximum necrotic core thickness, and necrotic core angle. When accounting for initial stress, the general relations between geometrical features and peak cap stress remain intact. However, on a patient-specific basis, accounting for initial stress has a different effect on the absolute cap stress for each plaque. Incorporating initial stress may therefore improve the accuracy of future stress based rupture risk analyses for atherosclerotic plaques.

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Journal of Biomechanics
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Speelman, L., Akyildiz, A., den Adel, B., Wentzel, J., van der Steen, T., Virmani, R., … Gijsen, F. (2011). Initial stress in biomechanical models of atherosclerotic plaques. Journal of Biomechanics, 44(13), 2376–2382. doi:10.1016/j.jbiomech.2011.07.004