Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the High-Risk Atherosclerotic Plaque
|By Thomas S. Hatsukami, MD
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of death worldwide and is a leading cause of long-term disability. It is estimated that the annual cost for the care of victims of CVD is over $390 billion per year in the United States alone. Most CVD events, such as heart attack and stroke, are atherosclerosis-related. Traditionally, the degree of vessel lumen narrowing has been used to identify the high-risk atherosclerotic plaque. However, there is increasing evidence that the structure, composition, and inflammatory activity of the atherosclerotic lesion are more important markers of the vulnerable plaque. Progress in understanding how vulnerable plaques develop has been hindered by our inability to serially examine these critical characteristics of the diseased vessel wall in a non-invasive fashion.
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