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PET Imaging of Carotid Plaques Detects Inflammation

Non-invasive method correlates with macrophage staining

FRIDAY, Nov. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Positron emission tomography (PET) imaging with fluorodeoxyglucose, whose uptake has been shown to be increased in carotid plaques, is an effective and non-invasive way to assess inflammation in patients with severe carotid stenoses, researchers report in the Nov. 7 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Ahmed Tawakol, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues examined the ability of 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose PET imaging to detect carotid plaque inflammation in 17 patients with severe carotid stenoses. Afterward, patients underwent carotid endarterectomy and carotid specimens were examined for macrophages.

There was a strong correlation between the imaging and inflammation as assessed by the PET signal in plaques and macrophage staining, as well as the mean uptake of fluorodeoxyglucose and mean inflammation. There was no correlation between plaque area or thickness, or extent of smooth muscle staining, according to the report.

"We established that fluorodeoxyglucose-PET imaging can be used to assess the severity of inflammation in carotid plaques in patients," the authors conclude. "If subsequent natural history studies link increased fluorodeoxyglucose-PET activity in carotid arteries with clinical events, this non-invasive measure could be used to identify a subset of patients with carotid atherosclerosis in need of intensified medical therapy or carotid artery intervention to prevent stroke."

The study was supported by grants from Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline.

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