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Intravascular ultrasound imaging of human coronary arteries in vivo. Analysis of tissue characterizations with comparison to in vitro histological specimens.



Intravascular ultrasound imaging was performed in 27 patients after coronary balloon angioplasty to quantify the lumen and atheroma cross-sectional areas.

Methods and results

A 20-MHz ultrasound catheter was inserted through a 1.6-mm plastic introducer sheath across the dilated area to obtain real-time images at 30 times/sec. The ultrasound images distinguished the lumen from atheroma, calcification, and the muscular media. The presence of dissection between the media and the atheroma was well visualized. These observations of tissue characterization were compared with an in vitro study of 20 human atherosclerotic artery segments that correlated the ultrasound images to histological preparations. The results indicate that high-quality intravascular ultrasound images under controlled in vitro conditions can provide accurate microanatomic information about the histological characteristics of atherosclerotic plaques. Similar quality cross-sectional ultrasound images were also obtained in human coronary arteries in vivo. Quantitative analysis of the ultrasound images from the clinical studies revealed that the mean cross-sectional lumen area after balloon angioplasty was 5.0 +/- 2.0 mm2. The mean residual atheroma area at the level of the prior dilatation was 8.7 +/- 3.4 mm2, which corresponded to 63% of the available arterial cross-sectional area. At the segments of the coronary artery that appeared angiographically normal, the ultrasound images demonstrated the presence of atheroma involving 4.7 +/- 3.2 mm2, which was a mean of 35 +/- 23% of the available area bounded by the media.


Intravascular ultrasound appears to be more sensitive than angiography for demonstrating the presence and extent of atherosclerosis and arterial calcification. Intracoronary imaging after balloon angioplasty reveals that a significant amount of atheroma is still present, which may partly explain why the incidence of restenosis is high after percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty.

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