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Current Techniques for MR Imaging of Atherosclerosis

Balu, Niranjan PhD*; Wang, Jinnan PhD; Dong, Li MD*; Baluyot, Florence MS; Chen, Huijun PhD*; Yuan, Chun PhD*

Topics in Magnetic Resonance Imaging: August 2009 - Volume 20 - Issue 4 - p 203-215
doi: 10.1097/RMR.0b013e3181ea287d
Original Articles

Vessel wall imaging of large vessels has the potential to identify culprit atherosclerotic plaques that lead to cardiovascular events. Comprehensive assessment of atherosclerotic plaque size, composition, and biological activity is possible with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Magnetic resonance imaging of the atherosclerotic plaque has demonstrated high accuracy and measurement reproducibility for plaque size. The accuracy of in vivo multicontrast MRI for identification of plaque composition has been validated against histological findings. Magnetic resonance imaging markers of plaque biological activity such as neovasculature and inflammation have been demonstrated. In contrast to other plaque imaging modalities, MRI can be used to study multiple vascular beds noninvasively over time. In this review, we compare the status of in vivo plaque imaging by MRI to competing imaging modalities. Recent MR technological improvements allow fast, accurate, and reproducible plaque imaging. An overview of current MRI techniques required for carotid plaque imaging including hardware, specialized pulse sequences, and processing algorithms are presented. In addition, the application of these techniques to coronary, aortic, and peripheral vascular beds is reviewed.

From the *Department of Radiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; †Clinical Sites Research Program, Philips Research North America, Briarcliff Manor, NY; and ‡Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

Reprints: Chun Yuan, PhD, Vascular Imaging Laboratory, 815, Mercer St, Box 358050, Seattle, WA 98019 (e-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.