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Assessment of normal and atherosclerotic arterial wall thickness with an intravascular ultrasound imaging catheter.


A prototype intravascular ultrasound imaging catheter with a 20 MHz transducer was used to obtain 59 cross-sectional images in 14 segments of human atherosclerotic arteries. Three distinct components of the arterial wall were visualized on the ultrasound images: a highly reflective intima, an echolucent media, and a moderately reflective adventitia. Images were obtained at 1 mm increments in vitro and were compared with histologic sections at the same levels. Measurements of the arterial layers showed a close correlation between ultrasound images and histologic sections for the thickness of the intimal plaque (r = 0.91), the media (r = 0.83), and the total wall thickness (r = 0.85). The ultrasound images overestimated the mean intimal and total wall thickness by 0.3 mm and 0.7 mm compared to measurements in histologic sections (p less than 0.001). Intravascular imaging with high-frequency ultrasound is an accurate method for measuring microanatomic arterial dimensions and the extent of atheromatous involvement of the arterial wall. This method could represent an important adjunct to traditional angiographic techniques for assessing the severity of atherosclerosis.

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