The role of 64-slice multi-detector computed tomography in the detection of subclinical atherosclerosis of the coronary artery
UNLABELLED Multi-detector row Computed Tomography (MDCT) permits non-invasive visualization of the coronary arteries. The ability to visualize and, with limitations, to characterize non-calcified coronary atherosclerotic plaque has been described. We investigated the CT attenuation of non-calcified plaques as determined by 16-slice MDCT in comparison to intravascular ultrasound (IVUS). METHODS AND RESULTS Thirty-two patients were investigated by contrast-enhanced 16-slice CT. In addition, IVUS of one coronary artery (motorized pullback) was performed (LM+LAD: 22, LM+LCX: 4, RCA: 6). At 252 sites within the coronary system, in which non-calcified atherosclerotic plaque could be identified both in MDCT and IVUS, the CT attenuation within the plaque was measured using a centrally placed region of interest and correlated to the appearance of the plaque in IVUS at the corresponding location. The mean CT attenuation within plaque that corresponded to hyper-echogenic appearance in IVUS was 121+/-34HU (n=76). The mean CT attenuation within plaque that corresponded to hypo-echogenic appearance was 58+/-43HU (n=176, p<0.001). However, there was substantial overlap of the density values measured by MDCT in the two groups. CONCLUSIONS A significant difference of the mean CT attenuation within atherosclerotic lesions of hypo-echogenic and hyper-echogenic appearance in IVUS could be observed. However, we observed substantial overlap of attenuation values between plaque types so that the differentiation of "vulnerable" and "stable" plaques based on their CT attenuation is doubtful.