High resolution three-dimensional visualization and characterization of coronary atherosclerosis in vitro by synchrotron radiation x-ray microtomography and highly localized x-ray diffraction

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Human atherosclerotic plaques in both native and bypass arteries have been visualized using microtomography to provide additional information on the nature of coronary artery disease. Plaques contained within arteries removed from three white males aged 51, 55 and 70 are imaged in three-dimensions with monochromatic synchrotron x-ray radiation. Fields of view are 658 × 658t 517 voxels, with cubic voxels ranging from 12 to 13 μm on a side. X-ray energies range from 11 to 15 keV (bandpass approximately 10 eV). At lower energies, high local absorption tends to generate reconstruction artefacts, while at higher energies the arterial wall is scarcely visible. At all energies, calcifications are clearly visible and differences are observed between plaques in native arteries (lifetime accumulations) versus bypass arteries (plaques developing in the interval between the heart bypass operation and the autopsy). In order to characterize coronary calcification, a microfocused, 50 μm2, 25 keV x-ray beam was used to acquire powder diffraction data from selected calcifications. Also, large calcifications were removed from the native arteries and imaged with 25 keV x-ray energy. Calcifications are composed of hydroxyapatite crystallites and an amorphous phase. In summary, native calcifications are larger and have a higher fraction of hydroxyapatite than calcifications from the bypass arteries.

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Physics in Medicine and Biology

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