Detection of rupture-prone atherosclerotic plaques by time-resolved laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy
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OBJECTIVE: Plaque with dense inflammatory cells, including macrophages, thin fibrous cap and superficial necrotic/lipid core is thought to be prone-to-rupture. We report a time-resolved laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy (TR-LIFS) technique for detection of such markers of plaque vulnerability in human plaques. METHODS: The autofluorescence of carotid plaques (65 endarterectomy patients) induced by a pulsed laser (337 nm, 0.7 ns) was measured from 831 distinct areas. The emission was resolved spectrally (360-550 nm range) and temporally (0.3 ns resolution) using a prototype fiber-optic TR-LIFS apparatus. Lesions were evaluated microscopically and quantified as to the % of different components (fibrous cap, necrotic core, inflammatory cells, foam cells, mature and degraded collagen, elastic fibers, calcification, and smooth muscle cell of the vessel wall). RESULTS: We determined that the spectral intensities and time-dependent parameters at discrete emission wavelengths (1) allow for discrimination (sensitivity >81%, specificity >94%) of various compositional and pathological features associated with plaque vulnerability including infiltration of macrophages into intima and necrotic/lipid core under a thin fibrous cap, and (2) show a linear correlation with plaque biochemical content: elastin (P<0.008), collagen (P<0.02), inflammatory cells (P<0.003), necrosis (P<0.004). CONCLUSION: Our results demonstrate the feasibility of TR-LIFS as a method for the identification of markers of plaque vulnerability. Current findings enable future development of TR-LIFS-based clinical devices for rapid investigation of atherosclerotic plaques and detection of those at high-risk.
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