Atherosclerotic plaque imaging using phase-contrast X-ray computed tomography

Masakazu Shinohara, Tomoya Yamashita, Hideto Tawa, Masafumi Takeda, Naoto Sasaki, Tomofumi Takaya, Ryuji Toh, Akihisa Takeuchi, Takuji Ohigashi, Kunio Shinohara, Seinosuke Kawashima, Mitsuhiro Yokoyama, Ken Ichi Hirata, Atsushi Momose

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48 Citations (Scopus)


Reliable, noninvasive imaging modalities to characterize plaque components are clinically desirable for detecting unstable coronary plaques, which cause acute coronary syndrome. Although recent clinical developments in computed tomography (CT) have enabled the visualization of luminal narrowing and calcified plaques in coronary arteries, the identification of noncalcified plaque components remains difficult. Phase-contrast X-ray CT imaging has great potentials to reveal the structures inside biological soft tissues, because its sensitivity to light elements is almost 1,000 times greater than that of absorption-contrast X-ray imaging. Moreover, a specific mass density of tissue can be estimated using phase-contrast X-ray CT. Ex vivo phase-contrast X-ray CT was performed using a synchrotron radiation source (SPring-8, Japan) to investigate atherosclerotic plaque components of apolipoprotein E-deficient mice. Samples were also histologically analyzed. Phase-contrast X-ray CT at a spatial resolution of 10-20 μm revealed atherosclerotic plaque components easily, and thin fibrous caps were detected. The specific mass densities of these plaque components were quantitatively estimated. The mass density of lipid area was significantly lower (1.011 ± 0.001766 g/ml) than that of smooth muscle area or collagen area (1.057 ± 0.001407 and 1.080 ± 0.001794 g/ml, respectively). Moreover, the three-dimensional assessment of plaques could provide their anatomical information. Phase-contrast X-ray CT can estimate the tissue mass density of atherosclerotic plaques and detect lipid-rich areas. It can be a promising noninvasive technique for the investigation of plaque components and detection of unstable coronary plaques.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)H1094-H1100
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Feb


  • Atherosclerotic plaque component
  • Synchrotron radiation
  • Tissue-mass density of plaque component


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