Postmortem Study of Validation of Low Signal on Fat-Suppressed T1-Weighted Magnetic Resonance Imaging as Marker of Lipid Core in Middle Cerebral Artery Atherosclerosis

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Background and Purpose—

High signal on T1-weighted fat-suppressed images in middle cerebral artery plaques on ex vivo magnetic resonance imaging was verified to be intraplaque hemorrhage histologically. However, the underlying plaque component of low signal on T1-weighted fat-suppressed images (LST1) has never been explored. Based on our experience, we hypothesized that LST1 might indicate the presence of lipid core within intracranial plaques.


1.5 T magnetic resonance imaging was performed in the postmortem brains to scan the cross sections of bilateral middle cerebral arteries. Then middle cerebral artery specimens were removed for histology processing. LST1 presence was identified on magnetic resonance images, and lipid core areas were measured on the corresponding histology sections.


Total 76 middle cerebral artery locations were included for analysis. LST1 showed a high specificity (96.9%; 95% confidence interval, 82.0%–99.8%) but a low sensitivity (38.6%; 95% confidence interval, 24.7%–54.5%) for detecting lipid core of all areas. However, the sensitivity increased markedly (81.2%; 95% confidence interval, 53.7%–95.0%) when only lipid cores of area ≥0.80 mm2 were included. Mean lipid core area was 5× larger in those with presence of LST1 than in those without (1.63±1.18 mm2 versus 0.32±0.31 mm2; P=0.003).


LST1 is a promising imaging biomarker of identifying intraplaque lipid core, which may be useful to distinguish intracranial atherosclerotic disease from other intracranial vasculopathies and to assess plaque vulnerability for risk stratification of patients with intracranial atherosclerotic disease. In vivo clinical studies are required to explore the correlation between LST1 and clinical outcomes of patients with intracranial atherosclerotic disease.

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