New noninvasive imaging technique can accurately assess CVD risk

A new imaging technique for carotid artery assessment can reveal key information about a patient’s risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a new study published in Radiology. Could it go on to be as popular as ultrasound?

Ultrasound, CT and MRI are typically used to assess a patient’s carotid arteries, but specialists can’t rely on these modalities to learn the makeup of plaque found inside those arteries. That’s where volumetric multi-spectral optoacoustic tomography (vMSOT), a new noninvasive technique, comes into play. It is performed with a handheld device, which is held to the patient’s neck, and uses spectroscopy to provide key information about the artery.

“Unlike most other clinical imaging modalities mainly looking at late-stage anatomical manifestations of diseases, vMSOT is capable of sensing specific molecules in tissues without administration of contrast agents,” senior author Daniel Razansky, PhD, director of the Functional and Molecular Imaging Lab at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, said in a prepared statement.  “In the case of carotid artery disease, assessment of the entire bifurcation area in real time and in 3-D is only possible with vMSOT.”

The researchers performed traditional ultrasound and vMSOT on 16 healthy patients, comparing the results. Overall, vMSOT “was able to noninvasively and instantaneously assess the entire bifurcation area of the carotid artery in three dimensions, thus making it less prone than ultrasound to motion-related, image-blurring artifacts,” according to the statement.

Razansky noted that vMSOT could potentially improve the diagnosis of patients at a high risk of cardiovascular disease, catching the symptoms earlier and getting those patients the care they need.

“Given its fast imaging performance, excellent molecular contrast, portability and affordability, I truly believe that vMSOT will soon be routinely used in the clinic,” Razansky said in the prepared statement. “One day, it may even become as popular as ultrasound.”