An atherosclerotic plaque requires a nutrient blood supply, which is predominantly derived from arterial vasa vasorum. A variety of factors (environmental and genetic) contribute to the initiation and growth of atherosclerosis within vessel walls. Chemotactic factors, such as tissue ischemic and hypoxic factors, stimulate the release of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) proteins, resulting in vessel wall angiogenesis. These developments often precede the formation of the luminal plaque. In this report, we describe the use of contrast-enhanced carotid ultrasound (CECU) imaging for the detection and quantification of intra-plaque neovascularization. The efficacy of CECU was measured against the neovascular density observed within the tissue specimens obtained at the time of carotid endarterectomy surgery. The objective of this study was to provide a histologic correlation between CECU and carotid artery atherosclerotic plaque neovascularization. Fifteen patients with significant atherosclerotic carotid artery disease received a CECU examination prior to undergoing a carotid endarterectomy (CEA). Two patients received bilateral endarterectomies, resulting in a total of 17 cases. At the time of surgery, carotid plaque samples were surgically removed and stained with specific vascular markers (CD31, CD34, von Willebrand factor, and hemosiderin) designed to identify the presence and degree of neovascularization. The intra-plaque neovascularization recorded on preoperative CECU was correlated with the degree of neovascularization noted in the tissue specimens. The CECU neovascularization was correlated to CD31-stained tissue specimens. This correlation value was 0.68 using Spearman's rank method. When CECU results were correlated with the other histologic markers (CD34, von Willebrand factor, and hemosiderin), a correlation of 0.50 was obtained. In conclusion, contrast-enhanced carotid ultrasound correlated to the presence and degree of intra-plaque neovascularization as determined from histology specimens.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine