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      Effects of intima stiffness and plaque morphology on peak cap stress

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          Rupture of the cap of a vulnerable plaque present in a coronary vessel may cause myocardial infarction and death. Cap rupture occurs when the peak cap stress exceeds the cap strength. The mechanical stress within a cap depends on the plaque morphology and the material characteristics of the plaque components. A parametric study was conducted to assess the effect of intima stiffness and plaque morphology on peak cap stress.


          Models with idealized geometries based on histology images of human coronary arteries were generated by varying geometric plaque features. The constructed multi-layer models contained adventitia, media, intima, and necrotic core sections. For adventitia and media layers, anisotropic hyperelastic material models were used. For necrotic core and intima sections, isotropic hyperelastic material models were employed. Three different intima stiffness values were used to cover the wide range reported in literature. According to the intima stiffness, the models were classified as stiff, intermediate and soft intima models. Finite element method was used to compute peak cap stress.


          The intima stiffness was an essential determinant of cap stresses. The computed peak cap stresses for the soft intima models were much lower than for stiff and intermediate intima models. Intima stiffness also affected the influence of morphological parameters on cap stresses. For the stiff and intermediate intima models, the cap thickness and necrotic core thickness were the most important determinants of cap stresses. The peak cap stress increased three-fold when the cap thickness was reduced from 0.25 mm to 0.05 mm for both stiff and intermediate intima models. Doubling the thickness of the necrotic core elevated the peak cap stress by 60% for the stiff intima models and by 90% for the intermediate intima models. Two-fold increase in the intima thickness behind the necrotic core reduced the peak cap stress by approximately 25% for both intima models. For the soft intima models, cap thickness was less critical and changed the peak cap stress by 55%. However, the necrotic core thickness was more influential and changed the peak cap stress by 100%. The necrotic core angle emerged as a critical determinant of cap stresses where a larger angle lowered the cap stresses. Contrary to the stiff and intermediate intima models, a thicker intima behind the necrotic core increased the peak cap stress by approximately 25% for the soft intima models. Adventitia thickness and local media regression had limited effects for all three intima models.


          For the stiff and intermediate intima models, the cap thickness was the most important morphological risk factor. However for soft intima models, the necrotic core thickness and necrotic core angle had a bigger impact on the peak cap stress. We therefore need to enhance our knowledge of intima material properties if we want to derive critical morphological plaque features for risk evaluation.

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          Most cited references 40

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          Lessons From Sudden Coronary Death

          Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 20(5), 1262-1275
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            From vulnerable plaque to vulnerable patient: a call for new definitions and risk assessment strategies: Part I.

            Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease results in >19 million deaths annually, and coronary heart disease accounts for the majority of this toll. Despite major advances in treatment of coronary heart disease patients, a large number of victims of the disease who are apparently healthy die suddenly without prior symptoms. Available screening and diagnostic methods are insufficient to identify the victims before the event occurs. The recognition of the role of the vulnerable plaque has opened new avenues of opportunity in the field of cardiovascular medicine. This consensus document concludes the following. (1) Rupture-prone plaques are not the only vulnerable plaques. All types of atherosclerotic plaques with high likelihood of thrombotic complications and rapid progression should be considered as vulnerable plaques. We propose a classification for clinical as well as pathological evaluation of vulnerable plaques. (2) Vulnerable plaques are not the only culprit factors for the development of acute coronary syndromes, myocardial infarction, and sudden cardiac death. Vulnerable blood (prone to thrombosis) and vulnerable myocardium (prone to fatal arrhythmia) play an important role in the outcome. Therefore, the term "vulnerable patient" may be more appropriate and is proposed now for the identification of subjects with high likelihood of developing cardiac events in the near future. (3) A quantitative method for cumulative risk assessment of vulnerable patients needs to be developed that may include variables based on plaque, blood, and myocardial vulnerability. In Part I of this consensus document, we cover the new definition of vulnerable plaque and its relationship with vulnerable patients. Part II of this consensus document focuses on vulnerable blood and vulnerable myocardium and provide an outline of overall risk assessment of vulnerable patients. Parts I and II are meant to provide a general consensus and overviews the new field of vulnerable patient. Recently developed assays (eg, C-reactive protein), imaging techniques (eg, CT and MRI), noninvasive electrophysiological tests (for vulnerable myocardium), and emerging catheters (to localize and characterize vulnerable plaque) in combination with future genomic and proteomic techniques will guide us in the search for vulnerable patients. It will also lead to the development and deployment of new therapies and ultimately to reduce the incidence of acute coronary syndromes and sudden cardiac death. We encourage healthcare policy makers to promote translational research for screening and treatment of vulnerable patients.
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              In vivo characterization of coronary atherosclerotic plaque by use of optical coherence tomography.

              The current understanding of the pathophysiology of coronary artery disease is based largely on postmortem studies. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a high-resolution ( approximately 10 microm), catheter-based imaging modality capable of investigating detailed coronary plaque morphology in vivo. Patients undergoing cardiac catheterization were enrolled and categorized according to their clinical presentation: recent acute myocardial infarction (AMI), acute coronary syndromes (ACS) constituting non-ST-segment elevation AMI and unstable angina, or stable angina pectoris (SAP). OCT imaging was performed with a 3.2F catheter. Two observers independently analyzed the images using the previously validated criteria for plaque characterization. Of 69 patients enrolled, 57 patients (20 with AMI, 20 with ACS, and 17 with SAP) had analyzable images. In the AMI, ACS, and SAP groups, lipid-rich plaque (defined by lipid occupying > or =2 quadrants of the cross-sectional area) was observed in 90%, 75%, and 59%, respectively (P=0.09). The median value of the minimum thickness of the fibrous cap was 47.0, 53.8, and 102.6 microm, respectively (P=0.034). The frequency of thin-cap fibroatheroma (defined by lipid-rich plaque with cap thickness < or =65 microm) was 72% in the AMI group, 50% in the ACS group, and 20% in the SAP group (P=0.012). No procedure-related complications occurred. OCT is a safe and effective modality for characterizing coronary atherosclerotic plaques in vivo. Thin-cap fibroatheroma was more frequently observed in patients with AMI or ACS than SAP. This is the first study to compare detailed in vivo plaque morphology in patients with different clinical presentations.

                Author and article information

                Biomed Eng Online
                BioMedical Engineering OnLine
                BioMed Central
                8 April 2011
                : 10
                : 25
                [1 ]Department of Biomedical Engineering, Thoraxcenter, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
                [2 ]Interuniversity Cardiology Institute of the Netherlands (ICIN), Utrecht, the Netherlands
                [3 ]Department of Mechanical Engineering, Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, the Netherlands
                [4 ]Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, the Netherlands
                [5 ]Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering, Delft University of Technology, Delft, the Netherlands
                [6 ]CVPath Institute Inc., Gaithersburg, MD, USA
                [7 ]Department of Radiology, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
                Copyright ©2011 Akyildiz et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


                Biomedical engineering


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