We have previously reported on the equivalent scatterer size, attenuation coefficient, and axial strain properties of atherosclerotic plaque ex vivo. Since plaque structure and composition may be damaged during a carotid endarterectomy procedure, characterization of in vivo properties of atherosclerotic plaque is essential. The relatively shallow depth of the carotid artery and plaque enables non-invasive evaluation of carotid plaque utilizing high frequency linear-array transducers. We investigate the ability of the attenuation coefficient and equivalent scatterer size parameters to differentiate between calcified, and lipidic plaque tissue. Softer plaques especially lipid rich and those with a thin fibrous cap are more prone to rupture and can be classified as unstable or vulnerable plaque. Preliminary results were obtained from 10 human patients whose carotid artery was scanned in vivo to evaluate atherosclerotic plaque prior to a carotid endarterectomy procedure. Our results indicate that the equivalent scatterer size obtained using Faran's scattering theory for calcified regions are in the 120-180 μm range while softer regions have larger equivalent scatterer size distribution in the 280-470 μm range. The attenuation coefficient for calcified regions as expected is significantly higher than that for softer regions. In the frequency bandwidth ranging from 2.5 to 7.5 MHz, the attenuation coefficient for calcified regions lies between 1.4 and 2.5 dB/cm/MHz, while that for softer regions lies between 0.3 and 1.3 dB/cm/MHz. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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