Imaging Atherosclerotic Plaque Inflammation With [18F]-Fluorodeoxyglucose Positron Emission Tomography
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Background— Atherosclerotic plaque rupture is usually a consequence of inflammatory cell activity within the plaque. Current imaging techniques provide anatomic data but no indication of plaque inflammation. The glucose analogue [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose (18FDG) can be used to image inflammatory cell activity non-invasively by PET. In this study we tested whether 18FDG-PET imaging can identify inflammation within carotid artery atherosclerotic plaques.
Methods and Results— Eight patients with symptomatic carotid atherosclerosis were imaged using 18FDG-PET and co-registered CT. Symptomatic carotid plaques were visible in 18FDG-PET images acquired 3 hours post-18FDG injection. The estimated net 18FDG accumulation rate (plaque/integral plasma) in symptomatic lesions was 27% higher than in contralateral asymptomatic lesions. There was no measurable 18FDG uptake into normal carotid arteries. Autoradiography of excised plaques confirmed accumulation of deoxyglucose in macrophage-rich areas of the plaque.
Conclusions— This study demonstrates that atherosclerotic plaque inflammation can be imaged with 18FDG-PET, and that symptomatic, unstable plaques accumulate more 18FDG than asymptomatic lesions.
Received March 5, 2002; revision received April 19, 2002; accepted April 22, 2002.