Inflammation plays an important role in progression and rupture of atherosclerotic plaque. Dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI has been proposed as a tool to evaluate inflammation in vivo by measuring the transfer constant and partial plasma volume, which are influenced by inflammation. This study sought to demonstrate the ability of dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI to provide localized measurements of transfer constant and partial plasma volume within plaque regions of different compositions. In order to do that, a highly automatic procedure for localized measurement of dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI parameters was developed. In 47 subjects, the average transfer constant and partial plasma volume were highest in loose matrix and fibrous tissue and substantially lower in intraplaque hemorrhage, lipid rich/necrotic core, and calcification. In addition, except for hemorrhage and calcification, statistically significant differences of transfer constant and partial plasma volume were observed for any pair of these components. This suggests that transfer constant and partial plasma volume could be helpful to differentiate different plaque components and that dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI has the potential to assess inflammatory burden in specific regions.
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