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Open Access Research

Dynamic variations in the ultrasound greyscale median of carotid artery plaques

Baris Kanber1, Timothy C Hartshorne12, Mark A Horsfield1, Andrew R Naylor12, Thompson G Robinson13 and Kumar V Ramnarine4*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK

2 Department of Surgery, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Leicester, UK

3 NIHR Biomedical Research Unit for Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK

4 Department of Medical Physics, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Sandringham Building, Leicester Royal Infirmary, Infirmary Square, Leicester LE1 5WW, UK

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Cardiovascular Ultrasound 2013, 11:21  doi:10.1186/1476-7120-11-21

Published: 14 June 2013

Abstract

Background

Several studies have found that the ultrasound greyscale median (GSM) of carotid artery plaques may be useful for predicting the risk of cerebrovascular events. However, measurements of GSM are typically performed on still ultrasound images ignoring any variations that may be observed on a frame-by-frame basis. The aim of this study was to establish the existence and investigate the nature and extent of these variations.

Methods

Employing a novel method that enabled plaque boundaries to be tracked semi-automatically, variations in the plaque GSM and observed cross-sectional area were measured for 27 carotid artery plaques (19 consecutive patients, stenosis range 10%-80%) over image sequences of up to 10 seconds in length acquired with a mean frame rate of 32 frames per second.

Results

Our results showed a mean inter-frame coefficient of variation (CV) of 5.2% (s.d. 2.5%) for GSM and 4.2% (s.d. 2.9%) for the plaque area. Thirteen of the 27 plaques (48%) exhibited CV in GSM greater than 5% whereas only six plaques (22%) had CV in plaque area of greater than 5%. There was no significant correlation between the CV of GSM and plaque area.

Conclusions

Inter-frame variations in the plaque GSM such as those found in this study have implications on the reproducibility of GSM measurements and their clinical utility. Studies assessing the GSM of carotid artery plaques should consider these variations.

Keywords:
Ultrasound; Carotid plaque; GSM; Frame-by-frame; Inter-frame; Variations