Background: The composition of an atherosclerotic plaque is considered more important than the degree of stenosis. An unstable lesion may rupture and cause an acute thrombotic reaction. Most of these lesions contain a large lipid pool covered by an inflamed thin fibrous cap. The stress in the cap increases with decreasing cap thickness and increasing macrophage infiltration. Intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) palpography might be an ideal technique to assess the mechanical properties of high-risk plaques. Technique: Palpography assesses the local mechanical properties of tissue using its deformation caused by the intraluminal pressure. In Vitro Validation: The technique was validated in vitro using diseased human coronary and femoral arteries. Especially between fibrous and fatty tissue, a highly significant difference in strain (p = 0.0012) was found. Additionally, the predictive value to identify the vulnerable plaque was investigated. A high-strain region at the lumen-vessel wall boundary has an 88% sensitivity and 89% specificity for identifying such plaques. In Vivo Validation: In vivo, the technique was validated in an atherosclerotic Yucatan minipig animal model. This study also revealed higher strain values in fattythan fibrous plaques (p < 0.001). The presence of a high-strain region at the lumen-plaque interface has a high predictive value to identify macrophages. Patient Studies: Patient studies revealed high-strain values (1-2%) in thin-cap fibrous atheroma. Calcified material showed low strain values (0-0.2%). With the development of three-dimensional (3-D) palpography, identification of high-strain spots over the full length of a coronary artery becomes available. Conclusion: Intravascular palpography is a unique tool to assess lesion composition and vulnerability. The development of 3-D palpography provides a technique that may develop into a clinical tool to identify the high-risk plaque.

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Herz: kardiovaskulaere Erkraenkungen
Department of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery

Schaar, J., de Korte, C., Mastik, F., Baldewsing, R., Regar, E., de Feyter, P., … Serruys, P. (2003). Intravascular palpography for high-risk vulnerable plaque assessment. Herz: kardiovaskulaere Erkraenkungen, 28(6), 488–495. doi:10.1007/s00059-003-2488-6