Lipid-Rich Atherosclerotic Plaques Detected by Gadofluorine-Enhanced In Vivo Magnetic Resonance Imaging

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Abstract

Background—

MRI of specific components in atherosclerotic plaque may provide information on plaque stability and its potential to rupture. We evaluated gadofluorine in atherosclerotic rabbits using a new MR sequence that allows plaque detection within 1 hour after injection and assessed enhancement in lipid-rich and non–lipid-rich plaques.

Methods and Results—

Twelve rabbits with aortic plaque and 6 controls underwent MRI before and up to 24 hours after gadofluorine injection (50 μmol/kg). Two T1-weighted, segmented gradient-echo sequences (TFL) were compared to enhance vessel wall delineation after injection: (1) an inversion-recovery prepulse (IR-TFL) or (2) a combination of inversion-recovery and diffusion-based flow suppression prepulses (IR-DIFF-TFL). With the use of IR-TFL at 1 hour after injection, the vessel wall was not delineated because of poor flow suppression; at 24 hours after injection, the enhancement was 37% (P<0.01). IR-DIFF-TFL showed significant enhancement after versus before contrast (1 hour: 164% [P<0.005]; 24 hours: 207% [P<0.001]). At 1 hour and 24 hours after injection, the contrast-to-noise ratio was higher with the use of IR-DIFF-TFL than with IR-TFL (1 hour: 13.0±7.7 versus −19.8±10.3 [P<0.001]; 24 hours: 15.2±5.9 versus 11.4±8.9, respectively [P=0.052]). There was no enhancement in the vessel wall after gadofluorine injection in the control group. A strong correlation was found (r2=0.87; P<0.001) between the lipid-rich areas in histological sections and signal intensity in corresponding MR images. This suggests a high affinity of gadofluorine for lipid-rich plaques.

Conclusions—

Gadofluorine-enhanced MRI improves atherosclerotic plaque detection. The IR-DIFF-TFL method allows early detection of atherosclerotic plaque within 1 hour after gadofluorine injection.

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