There is currently intense interest in the use of magnetic resonance to characterize atherosclerotic plaques and in particular detect those plaques prone to rupture and complication. Our group has a long history of investigation in this area,and our current activities in atherosclerosis research include the use of spectroscopic and magnetization transfer techniques to characterize plaque composition in-vitro, as well as the use of high-field MRI to better visualize plaque contents.
The imaging of atherosclerotic plaque at higher magnetic field strength allows increases in image resolution and/or image speed thus has the potential to allow for better plaque characterization than images conventionally acquired at 1.5 Tesla. We are currently comparing the utility of carotid plaque imaging in-vivo at 1.5 and 3 Tesla. Many of the patients we image subsequently proceed to carotid endarterectomy thus allowing both sets of MR images to be compared with plaque histology, as seen in the figure below.
We anticipate that this work will establish a role for high-field plaque characterization not only in the carotid arteries but ultimately in the coronary arteries too.