Evaluation of 3D multi-contrast carotid vessel wall MRI: a comparative study

Hanyu Wei, Miaoqi Zhang, Yunduo Li, Xihai Zhao, Gador Canton, Jie Sun, Dongxiang Xu, Zechen Zhou, Shuo Chen, Marina S. Ferguson, Thomas S. Hatsukami, Rui Li, Chun Yuan


Background: Conventional reference multi-contrast black-blood (BB) MRI can be used for measuring luminal stenosis severity and plaque components, and its performance has been validated by intra- and inter-reader reproducibility test and histology. Recently, a set of 3D multi-contrast BB sequences have been developed, but its accuracy and reliability have not been well investigated. In this study, we evaluated the performance of 3D multi-contrast MRI (3D-MERGE, T2-VISTA, and SNAP) by comparing it with reference multi-contrast vessel wall MRI and assessing the inter-reader reproducibility.
Methods: In total, 27 patients were recruited in this study. Twenty-six participants underwent reference and 3D multi-contrast imaging in a 3.0T MR scanner. One participant underwent carotid endarterectomy (CEA) after 3D MR imaging. Two trained reviewers interpreted reference and 3D datasets. Lumen area (LA), wall area (WA), normalized wall index (NWI), maximum wall thickness (MaxWT), and mean wall thickness (MWT) were measured, and the presence of lipid-rich necrotic core (LRNC), intra-plaque hemorrhage (IPH) and calcification (CA) were identified. Inter-reader reproducibility of 3D interpretation was assessed.
Results: 3D imaging provided comparable measurements with reference imaging in LA (43.81±25.74 vs. 43.35±24.66 mm2) and MaxWT (1.65±1.33 vs. 1.62±1.10 mm), with a lower NWI (0.40±0.15 vs. 0.43±0.11), WA (29.40±21.92 vs. 30.64±16.17 mm2) and MWT (1.09±0.69 vs. 1.14±0.47), and showed good agreement for identification of LRNC (κ=0.66, 95% CI: 0.30–1.00) and CA (κ=0.69, 95% CI: 0.42–0.97), and excellent agreement for IPH (κ=1.00, 95% CI: 1.00–1.00). Inter-reader agreement of 3D analysis was good (LRNC, κ=0.87, 95% CI: 0.61–1.00; CA, κ=0.66, 95% CI: 0.36–0.96; IPH, κ=1.00, 95% CI: 1.00–1.00).
Conclusions: 3D multi-contrast vessel wall imaging provides comparable performance in morphological measurements and identification of carotid plaque components as reference multi-contrast MRI, with good inter-reader reproducibility.