MRI-based fatigue analysis predicts plaque vulnerability: A study comparing symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals

Li, Z. Y. (2012) MRI-based fatigue analysis predicts plaque vulnerability: A study comparing symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. Circulation, 126(21).

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Rupture of atheromatous plaque in the carotid artery often leads to thrombosis and subsequent stroke. The mechanism of plaque rupture is not entirely clear but is thought to be a multi-factorial process involving thinning and weakening of the fibrous cap and biomechanical stress as the trigger leading to plaque rupture. As the cardiovascular system is a classic fatigue environment, the weakening of plaque leading to rupture may be a fatigue process, which is a symptomatically quiescent but potentially progressive failure process. In this study, we used a fatigue analysis based on in vivo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate the rupture initiation location, crack propagation path and fatigue life within plaques of asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals.


Forty non-consecutive subjects (20 symptomatic and 20 asymptomatic) underwent high-resolution multi-sequence in vivo MRI of the carotid bifurcation. Fatigue analysis was performed based on the plaque geometry derived from in vivo MRI of the carotid artery at the point of maximum stenosis. Paris’ Law in fracture mechanics is adopted to determine the fatigue crack growth rate. Incremental crack propagation was dynamically simulated based on stress distributions. Plaque initiation location, crack propagation path and fatigue cycle of symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals were compared.


Cracks were often found to begin at the lumen wall at areas of stress concentration. The preferred rupture direction was radial from the lumen center. The crack initially advanced slowly but accelerated as it developed, depending on plaque morphology. The fatigue cycles of symptomatic plaques were significantly less than those in the asymptomatic group (2.3 ± 0.9 vs 3.1 ± 0.7 (x106); p = 0.003).


The number of cycles to rupture in symptomatic patients was higher than those predicted in asymptomatic patients by fatigue analysis, suggesting the possibility that plaques with a less fatigue life may be more prone to be symptomatic and rupture. If further validated by large-scale longitudinal studies, fatigue analysis based on high resolution in vivo MRI could potentially act as a useful tool for risk assessment of carotid atheroma.

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ID Code: 90302
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: No
Keywords: Carotid arteries, Magnetic resonance imaging, Plaque rupture, Hemodynamics, Vulnerable plaque
ISSN: 1524-4539
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Chemistry, Physics & Mechanical Engineering
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 American Heart Association, Inc
Deposited On: 19 Nov 2015 02:14
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2015 01:14

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