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    The composition of vulnerable plaque and its effect on arterial waveforms

    Abdulsalam, M and Feng, J (2021) The composition of vulnerable plaque and its effect on arterial waveforms. Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials, 119. p. 104491. ISSN 1751-6161

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    Carotid plaque composition is a key factor of plaque stability and it carries significant prognostic information. The carotid unstable plaques are characterized by a thin fibrous cap (FC) ≤65μm with large lipid core (LC), while stable plaques have a thicker FC and less LC. Identifying the percentage of plaque compositions could help surgeons to make a precise decision for their patients’ treatment protocol. This study aims to distinguish between stable and unstable plaque by defining the relationship between plaque composition and arterial waveform non-invasively. An in-vitro arterial system, composed of a Harvard pulsatile flow pump and artificial circulation system, was used to investigate the effect of the plaque compositions on the pulsatile arterial waveforms. Five types of arterial plaques, composed of the LC, FC, Collagen (Col) and Calcium (Ca), were implemented into the artificial carotid artery to represent the diseased arterial system with 30% of blockage. The pulsatile pressure, velocity and arterial wall movement were measured simultaneously at the site proximal to the plaque. Non-invasive wave intensity analysis (Non-WIA) was used to separate the waves into forward and backward components. The correlation between the plaque compositions and the reflected waveforms was quantitatively analysed. The experimental results indicate that the reflected waveforms are strongly correlated with the plaque compositions, where the percentages of the Col are linearly correlated with the amplitude of the backward diameter (correlation coefficient, r = 0.74) and the lipid content has a strong negative correlation with the backward diameter (r = 0.82). A slight weak correlation exists between the reflected waveform and the percentage of Ca. The strong correlation between the compositions of the plaques with the backward waveforms observed in this study demonstrates that the components of the arterial plaques could be distinguished by the arterial waveforms. This finding might lead to a potential novel non-invasive clinical tool to determine the composition of the plaques and distinguish between stable and vulnerable arterial plaques at the early stage.

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