Contrast-Enhanced Ultrasound Imaging of Intraplaque Neovascularization in Carotid Arteries. Correlation With Histology and Plaque Echogenicity

Stefano Coli, Marco Magnoni, Giuseppe Sangiorgi, Massimiliano M. Marrocco-Trischitta, Giulio Melisurgo, Alessandro Mauriello, Luigi Spagnoli, Roberto Chiesa, Domenico Cianflone, Attilio Maseri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: This study was designed to evaluate contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging of carotid atherosclerosis as a clinical tool to study intraplaque neovascularization. Background: Plaque neovascularization is associated with plaque vulnerability and symptomatic disease; therefore, imaging of neovascularization in carotid atherosclerosis may represent a useful tool for clinical risk stratification and monitoring the efficacy of antiatherosclerotic therapies. Methods: Thirty-two patients with 52 carotid plaques were studied by standard and contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging. In 17 of these patients who underwent endarterectomy, the surgical specimen was available for histological determination of microvessel density by CD31/CD34 double staining. Plaque echogenicity and degree of stenosis at standard ultrasound imaging were evaluated for each lesion. Contrast-agent enhancement within the plaque was categorized as absent/peripheral (grade 1) and extensive/internal (grade 2). Results: In the surgical subgroup, plaques with higher contrast-agent enhancement showed a greater neovascularization at histology (grade 2 vs. grade 1 contrast-agent enhancement: median vasa vasorum density: 3.24/mm2 vs. 1.82/mm2, respectively, p = 0.005). In the whole series of 52 lesions, echolucent plaques showed a higher degree of contrast-agent enhancement (p <0.001). Stenosis degree was not associated with neovascularization at histology or with the grade of contrast-agent enhancement. Conclusions: Carotid plaque contrast-agent enhancement with sonographic agents correlates with histological density of neovessels and is associated with plaque echolucency, a well-accepted marker of high risk lesions, but it is unrelated to the degree of stenosis. Contrast-enhanced carotid ultrasound imaging may provide valuable information for plaque risk stratification and for assessing the response to antiatherosclerotic therapies, beyond that provided by standard ultrasound imaging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-230
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 15 2008


  • atherosclerosis
  • carotid artery
  • contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging
  • imaging
  • vasa vasorum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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