Progression and rupture of atherosclerotic plaques in coronary and carotid arteries are the key processes underlying myocardial infarctions and strokes. Biomechanical stress analyses to compute mechanical stresses in a plaque can potentially be used to assess plaque vulnerability. The stress analyses strongly rely on accurate representation of the mechanical properties of the plaque components. In this review, the composition of intima tissue and how this changes during plaque development is discussed from a mechanical perspective. The plaque classification scheme of the American Heart Association is reviewed and plaques originating from different vascular territories are compared. Thereafter, an overview of the experimental studies on tensile and compressive plaque intima properties are presented and the results are linked to the pathology of atherosclerotic plaques. This overview revealed a considerable variation within studies, and an enormous dispersion between studies. Finally, the implications of the dispersion in experimental data on the clinical applications of biomechanical plaque modeling are presented. Suggestions are made on mechanical testing protocol for plaque tissue and on using a standardized plaque classification scheme. This review identifies the current status of knowledge on plaque mechanical properties and the future steps required for a better understanding of the plaque type specific material properties. With this understanding, biomechanical plaque modeling may eventually provide essential support for clinical plaque risk stratification.

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Journal of Biomechanics
Department of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery

Akyildiz, A.C, Speelman, L, & Gijsen, F.J.H. (2014). Mechanical properties of human atherosclerotic intima tissue. Journal of Biomechanics, 47(4), 773–783. doi:10.1016/j.jbiomech.2014.01.019