The study of atherosclerotic disease during its natural history and after therapeutic intervention will enhance our understanding of disease progression and regression and aid in selecting appropriate treatments. Several invasive and noninvasive imaging techniques are available to assess atherosclerotic vessels. Most of the standard techniques identify luminal diameter, stenosis, wall thickness, and plaque volume; however, none can characterize plaque composition and therefore identify the high-risk plaques. We will present the different imaging modalities that have been used for the direct assessment of the carotid, aortic, and coronary atherosclerotic plaques. We will review in detail the use of high-resolution, multicontrast magnetic resonance for the noninvasive imaging of vulnerable plaques and the characterization of plaques in terms of their various components (ie, lipid, fibrous, calcium, or thrombus).
- Computed tomography
- Magnetic resonance imaging