Histopathologic Validation of Grayscale Carotid Plaque Characteristics Related to Plaque Vulnerability

Carol C. Mitchell, James H. Stein, Thomas D. Cook, Shahriar Salamat, Xiao Wang, Tomy Varghese, Daren C. Jackson, Carolina Sandoval Garcia, Stephanie M. Wilbrand, Robert J. Dempsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Inflammation and angiogenesis play major roles in carotid plaque vulnerability. The purpose of this study was to determine whether gray-scale features of carotid plaques are associated with histologic markers for inflammation. Thirty-eight individuals completed a dedicated research carotid ultrasound exam before carotid endarterectomy. Gray-scale analysis was performed on plaque images to measure plaque echogenicity (gray-scale median [GSM] pixel brightness), plaque area, presence of discrete white areas (DWAs) and the percent of black area near the lumen on any one component of the plaque. Plaques with higher ultrasound GSM had greater percent calcification (p = 0.013) on histopathology. Presence of an ultrasound DWA was associated with more plaque hemosiderin (p = 0.0005) and inflammation (p = 0.019) on histopathology examination. The percent of plaque black area in any one component was associated with a higher score for macroscopic ulceration (p = 0.028). Ultrasound plaque characteristics (GSM, DWAs and black areas) represent histopathologic markers associated with plaque vulnerability. ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT02476396.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-137
Number of pages9
JournalUltrasound in Medicine and Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NIH Grant: R01 NS064034 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology


  • Carotid plaque
  • Ultrasound gray-scale imaging
  • Vulnerable plaque


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