Non-invasive imaging of vascular inflammation

Enrico Ammirati, Francesco Moroni, Patrizia Pedrotti, Isabella Scotti, Marco Magnoni, Enrica P. Bozzolo, Ornella E. Rimoldi, Paolo G. Camici

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In large-vessel vasculitides, inflammatory infiltrates may cause thickening of the involved arterial vessel wall leading to progressive stenosis and occlusion. Dilatation, aneurysm formation, and thrombosis may also ensue. Activated macrophages and T lymphocytes are fundamental elements in vascular inflammation. The amount and density of the inflammatory infiltrate is directly linked to local disease activity. Additionally, patients with autoimmune disorders have an increased cardiovascular (CV) risk compared with agematched healthy individuals as a consequence of accelerated atherosclerosis. Molecular imaging techniques targeting activated macrophages, neovascularization, or increased cellular metabolic activity can represent effective means of non-invasive detection of vascular inflammation. In the present review, novel non-invasive imaging tools that have been successfully tested in humans will be presented. These include contrast-enhanced ultrasonography, which allows detection of neovessels within the wall of inflamed arteries; contrast-enhanced CV magnetic resonance that can detect increased thickness of the arterial wall, usually associated with edema, or mural enhancement using T2 and post-contrast T1-weighted sequences, respectively; and positron emission tomography associated with radio-tracers such as [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose and the new [11C]-PK11195 in combination with computed tomography angiography to detect activated macrophages within the vessel wall. Imaging techniques are useful in the diagnostic work-up of large- and mediumvessel vasculitides, to monitor disease activity and the response to treatments. Finally, molecular imaging targets can provide new clues about the pathogenesis and evolution of immune-mediated disorders involving arterial vessels.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 399
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue numberAUG
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Cardiovascular magnetic resonance
  • Contrast-enhanced ultrasound
  • Non-invasive imaging
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Vascular inflammation
  • Vasculitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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