Over the last several decades, basic cardiovascular research has significantly enhanced our understanding of pathobiological processes leading to formation, progression, and complications of atherosclerotic plaques. By harnessing these advances in cardiovascular biology, imaging has advanced beyond its traditional anatomical domains to a tool that permits probing of particular molecular structures to image cellular behaviour and metabolic pathways involved in atherosclerosis. From the nascent atherosclerotic plaque to the death of inflammatory cells, several potential molecular and micro-anatomical targets for imaging with particular selective imaging probes and with a variety of imaging modalities have emerged from preclinical and animal investigations. Yet, substantive barriers stand between experimental use and wide clinical application of these novel imaging strategies. Each of the imaging modalities described herein faces hurdles-for example, sensitivity, resolution, radiation exposure, reproducibility, availability, standardization, or costs. This review summarizes the published literature reporting on functional imaging of vascular inflammation in atherosclerotic plaques emphasizing those techniques that have the greatest and/or most immediate potential for broad application in clinical practice. The prospective evaluation of these techniques and standardization of protocols by multinational networks could serve to determine their added value in clinical practice and guide their development and deployment.
- Functional imaging
- Vascular inflammation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine