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Biomedical Engineering Online


Background: Mechanical stresses are known to play important roles in atherosclerotic plaque initiation, progression and rupture. It has been well-accepted that atherosclerosis initiation and early progression correlate negatively with flow wall shear stresses (FSS). However, mechanisms governing advanced plaque progression are not well understood. Method: In Vivo serial MRI data (patient follow-up) were acquired from 14 patients after informed consent. Each patient had 2-4 scans (scan interval: 18 months). Thirty-two scan pairs (baseline and follow-up scans) were formed with slices matched for model construction and analysis. Each scan pair had 4-10 matched slices which gave 400-1000 data points for analysis (100 points per slice on lumen). Point-wise plaque progression was defined as the wall thickness increase (WTI) at each data point. 3D computational models with fluid-structure interactions were constructed based on in Vivo serial MRI data to extract flow shear stress and plaque wall stress (PWS) on all data points to quantify correlations between plaque progression and mechanical stresses (FSS and PWS). FSS and PWS data corresponding to both maximum and minimum flow rates in a cardiac cycle were used to investigate the impact of flow rates on those correlations. Results: Using follow-up scans and maximum flow rates, 19 out of 32 scan pairs showed a significant positive correlation between WTI and FSS (positive/negative/no significance correlation ratio = 19/9/4), and 26 out of 32 scan pairs showed a significant negative correlation between WTI and PWS (correlation ratio = 2/26/4). Corresponding to minimum flow rates, the correlation ratio for WTI vs. FSS and WTI vs. PWS were (20/7/5) and (2/26/4), respectively. Using baseline scans, the correlation ratios for WTI vs. FSS were (10/12/10) and (9/13/10) for maximum and minimum flow rates, respectively. The correlation ratios for WTI vs. PWS were the same (18/5/9), corresponding to maximum and minimum flow rates. Conclusion: Flow shear stress corresponding to the minimum flow rates in a cardiac cycle had slightly better correlation with WTI, compared to FSS corresponding to maximum flow rates. Choice of maximum or minimum flow rates had no impact on PWS correlations. Advanced plaque progression correlated positively with flow shear stress and negatively with plaque wall stress using follow-up scans. Correlation results using FSS at the baseline scan were inconclusive.





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