Improved diagnostic methods for vascular plaque tissue using advanced ultrasonic methods
This project is part of a treatment-substudy of the large VIP-VIZA study (Västerbotten Intervention Programme - VIZualization of Arterial plaque) which in turn is based on the VHU (Västerbotten Hälso Undersökningar).
Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in western countries, and most acute cardiovascular events are due to a rupture of vulnerable plaque. The general purpose of the project is to develop a non-invasive method to identify vulnerable plaques of the carotid arteries. Previous non-invasive ultrasound methods to identify vulnerable plaques have mainly focused on systemic variables such as gray-scale-median or area and volume. However, recent research indicate that plaque heterogeneity is much more related to plaque vulnerability. This research addresses the composition of the plaque tissue.
Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in western countries, and most acute cardiovascular events are due to a rupture of vulnerable plaque. Today invasive methods have the highest potential to identify the vulnerable plaques in the larger arteries (IVUS). However, the technique is not suited for smaller arteries such as the carotids due to the risk that the catheter makes the plaque rupture. Thus, there is a need for a non-invasive screening technique. The project has a unique base with a fully programmable ultrasound system together with a close collaboration with the clinical environment.
Aim: The aim of the project is to develop a non-invasive ultrasound tissue characterization method for the detection of vulnerable plaques. The research addresses previous limitations in the non-invasive ultrasound imaging of plaques by including both structural and functional information. The hypotheses are that 1) changes in plaque composition can be detected with high sensitivity with so called structural, texture-based descriptors, 2) combining structural and functional tissue information improves the detection.
Plan: The work will develop techniques and methods to study changes in plaque tissue composition i 2-D and 3-D ultrasound image sequences, and their changes in a longitudinal study of effects of treatment. In addition, the correlation with cardiovascular events will be examined.
Relevance: Atherosclerosis causes high costs to the society and a personal suffering. The project contributes with the development of a non-invasive screening method for an improved clinical assessment of the plaque characteristics (vulnerability) and thus patients in need of healthcare can be better selected. This implies positive effects for the patients and reduced costs for the healthcare and the society.