High-Resolution Three-Dimensional Aortic Magnetic Resonance Angiography and Quantitative Vessel Wall Characterization of Different Atherosclerotic Stages in a Rabbit Model

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Purpose:Atherosclerosis results in a considerable medical and socioeconomic impact on society. We sought to evaluate novel magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) angiography and vessel wall sequences to visualize and quantify different morphologic stages of atherosclerosis in a Watanabe hereditary hyperlipidemic (WHHL) rabbit model.Material and Methods:Aortic 3D steady-state free precession angiography and subrenal aortic 3D black-blood fast spin-echo vessel wall imaging pre- and post-Gadolinium (Gd) was performed in 14 WHHL rabbits (3 normal, 6 high-cholesterol diet, and 5 high-cholesterol diet plus endothelial denudation) on a commercial 1.5 T MR system. Angiographic lumen diameter, vessel wall thickness, signal-/contrast-to-noise analysis, total vessel area, lumen area, and vessel wall area were analyzed semiautomatically.Results:Pre-Gd, both lumen and wall dimensions (total vessel area, lumen area, vessel wall area) of group 2 + 3 were significantly increased when compared with those of group 1 (all P < 0.01). Group 3 animals had significantly thicker vessel walls than groups 1 and 2 (P < 0.01), whereas angiographic lumen diameter was comparable among all groups. Post-Gd, only diseased animals of groups 2 + 3 showed a significant (>100%) signal-to-noise ratio and contrast-to-noise increase.Conclusions:A combination of novel 3D magnetic resonance angiography and high-resolution 3D vessel wall MRI enabled quantitative characterization of various atherosclerotic stages including positive arterial remodeling and Gd uptake in a WHHL rabbit model using a commercially available 1.5 T MRI system.

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