Characterization of Carotid Atherosclerotic Plaques Using 3-Dimensional MERGE Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Correlation With Stroke Risk Factors

Kiyoko Murata, Nozomu Murata, Baocheng Chu, Hiroko Watase, Daniel S. Hippe, Niranjan Balu, Jie Sun, Xihai Zhao, Thomas S. Hatsukami, Chun Yuan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Purpose - High-resolution magnetic resonance imaging is capable of characterizing carotid atherosclerotic plaque morphology and composition. Most reported carotid plaque imaging techniques are 2-dimensional (2D) based with limited longitudinal coverage of ≈30 mm, which may be insufficient for complete visualization of extracranial carotid atheroma. A 3D black-blood imaging technique, motion-sensitized driven equilibrium prepared rapid gradient echo technique (3D-MERGE) can provide larger coverage. We sought to use 3D-MERGE to investigate carotid atherosclerosis plaque distribution and to analyze their correlation with clinical information and stroke risk factors. Methods - From 5 hospitals in China, 97 subjects suspected of recent stroke or transient ischemic attack were imaged with 3D-MERGE within 2 weeks of symptoms using 3T magnetic resonance imaging. Images were analyzed by 2 reviewers. Plaque length was calculated and categorized as plaques within, partially outside, or completely outside of typical 2D magnetic resonance imaging coverage. Associations between plaque features and clinical information, stroke risk factors were assessed. Results - Ninety-seven subjects with 194 carotid arteries (70 men and 27 women, mean age 60 years) were analyzed. Of the 136 plaques identified, 68 (50%) were within, 46 (33.8%) were partially outside, and 22 (16.2%) were completely outside of 2D magnetic resonance imaging coverage. Total plaque length was significantly positively associated with male sex (P<0.001), hypertension (P=0.011), and history of smoking (P<0.001). Hypertensive subjects were more likely to have at least one plaque completely outside the 2D magnetic resonance imaging coverage than nonhypertensive subjects (P=0.007). Conclusions - The 3D-MERGE allows for the identification of substantially more carotid plaques than 2D black-blood techniques. The extent and distribution of plaque, identified by the larger coverage afforded by 3D-MERGE, were found to correlate significantly with male sex and risk factors that are common among patients with stroke, including hypertension and history of cigarette smoking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-480
Number of pages6
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01-02-2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialised Nursing


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