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A study of plaque vascularization and inflammation using quantitative contrast-enhanced US and PET/CT

European Journal of Radiology
DOI: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2014.03.021
  • Carotid Artery Plaque
  • Ultrasound
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Biology
  • Medicine
  • Philosophy


Abstract Background Contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) is an in vivo methodology to quantify carotid plaque vascularization. Increased metabolism in plaques, measured as FDG uptake in PET/CT examination, has been associated with markers of inflammation in histological samples. In this study, we tested the association between FDG uptake and vascularization measured by CEUS to assess whether CEUS can be used as an in vivo marker of plaque vulnerability. Methods After informed consent, subjects aged >60 years with carotid plaque height exceeding 2.5mm were recruited. CEUS was performed and analyzed using earlier described protocol and software, Contrast Quantification Program, which calculates the fraction of the plaque being contrast positive (CQP value). PET/CT examination was performed within 3 months of CEUS (median time 7 days). PET/CT images were acquired 90min after FDG injection (2.7MBq/kg). FDG uptake was measured as tissue background index (TBI), calculated using Spearman's rho as mean standard uptake value (SUV) of the plaque divided by mean SUV in the jugular vein (mean of 7 measuring points). Local ethics committee approved the study. Results We recruited 13 subjects (5 women) with a mean age of 71 years, 6 had a history of stroke or TIA, 1 had a history of ipsilateral stroke. CQP values showed a significant, positive correlation with TBI of carotid plaques, r=0.67, p<0.02. Conclusions Plaque vascularization measured by CEUS correlates positively with FDG uptake measured by PET/CT in humans. This indicates an association between vascularization and inflammation and/or hypoxia, supporting the use of CEUS as a non-invasive method to detect plaque vulnerability.

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