Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease, complicated by progressively increasing atherosclerotic plaques that eventually may rupture. Plaque rupture is a major cause of cardiovascular events, such as unstable angina, myocardial infarction, and stroke. A number of noninvasive imaging techniques have been developed to evaluate the vascular wall in an attempt to identify so-called vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques that are prone to rupture. The purpose of the present review is to systematically investigate the accuracy of noninvasive imaging techniques in the identification of plaque components and morphologic characteristics associated with plaque vulnerability, assessing their clinical and diagnostic value. © 2010 Mosby, Inc.
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