Atherosclerotic plaque neovascularization was shown to be one of the strongest predictors of future cardiovascular events. Yet, the clinical tools for coronary wall microvasculature detection invivo are lacking. Here we report an ultrasound pulse sequence capable of detecting microvasculature invisible in conventional intracoronary imaging. The method combines intravascular ultrasound with an ultrasound contrast agent, i.e., a suspension of microscopic vascular acoustic resonators that are small enough to penetrate the capillary bed after intravenous administration. The pulse sequence relies on brief chirp excitations to extract ultraharmonic echoes specific to the ultrasound contrast agent. We implemented the pulse sequence on an intravascular ultrasound probe and successfully imaged the microvasculature of a 6 days old chicken embryo respiratory organ. The feasibility of microvasculature imaging with intravascular ultrasound sets the stage for a translation of the method to studies of intra-plaque neovascularization detection in humans.

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Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology
Department of Cardiology

Maresca, D, Skachkov, I, Renaud, G, Jansen, K, van Soest, G, de Jong, N, & van der Steen, A.F.W. (2014). Imaging microvasculature with contrast-enhanced ultraharmonic ultrasound. Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology, 40(6), 1318–1328. doi:10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2013.12.029