Using maximum diameter of an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) alone for management can lead to delayed interventions or unnecessary urgent repairs. Abdominal aortic aneurysm stiffness plays an important role in its expansion and rupture. In vivo aortic magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) was developed to spatially measure AAA stiffness in previous pilot studies and has not been thoroughly validated and evaluated for its potential clinical value. This study aims to evaluate noninvasive in vivo aortic MRE-derived stiffness in an AAA porcine model and investigate the relationships between MRE-derived AAA stiffness and (1) histopathology, (2) uniaxial tensile test, and (3) burst testing for assessing MRE's potential in evaluating AAA rupture risk.
Materials and Methods
Abdominal aortic aneurysm was induced in 31 Yorkshire pigs (n = 226 stiffness measurements). Animals were randomly divided into 3 cohorts: 2-week, 4-week, and 4-week-burst. Aortic MRE was sequentially performed. Histopathologic analyses were performed to quantify elastin, collagen, and mineral densities. Uniaxial tensile test and burst testing were conducted to measure peak stress and burst pressure for assessing the ultimate wall strength.
Magnetic resonance elastography–derived AAA stiffness was significantly higher than the normal aorta. Significant reduction in elastin and collagen densities as well as increased mineralization was observed in AAAs. Uniaxial tensile test and burst testing revealed reduced ultimate wall strength. Magnetic resonance elastography–derived aortic stiffness correlated to elastin density (ρ = −0.68; P < 0.0001; n = 60) and mineralization (ρ = 0.59; P < 0.0001; n = 60). Inverse correlations were observed between aortic stiffness and peak stress (ρ = −0.32; P = 0.0495; n = 38) as well as burst pressure (ρ = −0.55; P = 0.0116; n = 20).
Noninvasive in vivo aortic MRE successfully detected aortic wall stiffening, confirming the extracellular matrix remodeling observed in the histopathologic analyses. These mural changes diminished wall strength. Inverse correlation between MRE-derived aortic stiffness and aortic wall strength suggests that MRE-derived stiffness can be a potential biomarker for clinically assessing AAA wall status and rupture potential.