Studying the Factors of Human Carotid Atherosclerotic Plaque Rupture, by Calculating Stress/Strain in the Plaque, Based on CEUS Images: A Numerical Study

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Carotid plaque neovascularization is one of the major factors for the classification of vulnerable plaque, but the axial force effects of the pulsatile blood flow on the plaque with neovessel and intraplaque hemorrhage was unclear. Together with the severity of stenosis, the fibrous cap thickness, large lipid core, and the neovascularization followed by intraplaque hemorrhage (IPH) have been regarded as high-risk features of plaque rupture. In this work, the effects of these factors were evaluated on the progression and rupture of the carotid atherosclerotic plaques. Five geometries of carotid artery plaque were developed based on contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) images, which contain two types of neovessel and IPH, and geometry without neovessel and IPH. A one-way fluid-structure interaction model was applied to compute the maximum principal stress and strain in the plaque. For that hyper-elastic and non-linear material, Yeoh 3rd Order strain energy density function was used for components of the plaque. The simulation results indicated that the maximum principal stress of plaque in the carotid artery was higher when the degree of the luminal stenosis increased and the thickness of the fibrous cap decreased. The neovessels within the plaque could introduce a 2.5% increments of deformation in the plaque under the pulsatile blood flow pressure. The IPH also contributed to the increased risk of plaque rupture that a gain of stress was 8.983, 14.526, and 34.47 kPa for the plaque with 50, 65, and 75%, respectively, when comparing stress in the plaque with IPH distributed at the middle to the shoulder of the plaque. In conclusion, neovascularization in the plaque could reduce the stability of the plaque by increasing the stress within the plaque. Also, the risk of plaque rupture increased when large luminal stenosis, thin fibrous cap, and IPH were observed.

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