, Volume 40, Issue 7, pp 1443-1454
Date: 11 Jan 2012

Microcalcifications Increase Coronary Vulnerable Plaque Rupture Potential: A Patient-Based Micro-CT Fluid–Structure Interaction Study

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Abstract

Asymptomatic vulnerable plaques (VP) in coronary arteries accounts for significant level of morbidity. Their main risk is associated with their rupture which may prompt fatal heart attacks and strokes. The role of microcalcifications (micro-Ca), embedded in the VP fibrous cap, in the plaque rupture mechanics has been recently established. However, their diminutive size offers a major challenge for studying the VP rupture biomechanics on a patient specific basis. In this study, a highly detailed model was reconstructed from a post-mortem coronary specimen of a patient with observed VP, using high resolution micro-CT which captured the microcalcifications embedded in the fibrous cap. Fluid–structure interaction (FSI) simulations were conducted in the reconstructed model to examine the combined effects of micro-Ca, flow phase lag and plaque material properties on plaque burden and vulnerability. This dynamic fibrous cap stress mapping elucidates the contribution of micro-Ca and flow phase lag VP vulnerability independently. Micro-Ca embedded in the fibrous cap produced increased stresses predicted by previously published analytical model, and corroborated our previous studies. The ‘micro-CT to FSI’ methodology may offer better diagnostic tools for clinicians, while reducing morbidity and mortality rates for patients with vulnerable plaques and ameliorating the ensuing healthcare costs.

Associate Editor Aleksander S. Popel oversaw the review of this article.