, Volume 18, Issue 6, pp 1066-1075,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 15 Oct 2011

High-resolution imaging of human atherosclerotic carotid plaques with micro18F-FDG PET scanning exploring plaque vulnerability



FDG-PET can be used to identify vulnerable plaques in atherosclerotic disease. Clinical FDG-PET camera systems are restricted in terms of resolution for the visualization of detailed inflammation patterns in smaller vascular structures. The aim of the study is to evaluate the possible added value of a high-resolution microPET system in excised carotid plaques using FDG.

Methods and Results

In this study, 17 patients with planned carotid endarterectomy were included. Excised plaques were incubated in FDG and subsequently imaged with microPET. Macrophage presence in plaques was evaluated semi-quantitatively by immunohistochemistry. Plaque calcification was assessed additionally with CT and correlated to FDG uptake. Finally, FDG uptake and macrophage infiltration were compared with patient symptomatology. Heterogeneous distributions and variable intensities of FDG uptake were found within the plaques. A positive correlation between the distribution of macrophages and the FDG uptake (r = 0.68, P < .01) was found. A negative correlation was found between areas of calcifications and FDG uptake (r = −0.84, P < .001). Ratio FDGmax values as well as degree of CD68 accumulation were significantly higher in CVA patients compared with TIA or amaurosis fugax patients (P < .05) and CVA patients compared with asymptomatic patients (P < .05).


This ex vivo study demonstrates that excised carotid plaques can be visualized in detail using FDG microPET. Enhancement of clinical PET/CT resolution for similar imaging results in patients is needed.