Application of intravascular ultrasound for detection and quantitation of coronary atherosclerosis

S. E. Nissen, J. C. Gurley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Although angiography is widely utilized to assess the extent and severity of coronary artery disease (CAD), arteriography yields only a silhouette of the vessel lumen. Coronary intravascular ultrasound supplements angiography by providing a tomographic perspective of lumen geometry and vessel wall structure. Intracoronary ultrasound can now be performed in vivo utilizing small, flexible probes capable of negotiating tortuous vessles. We have performed coronary ultrasound in more than 100 patients, including a group of normal subjects, with no serious complications. Measurements of coronary lumen dimensions by angiography and ultrasound correlated closely for normal vessels (r=0.92) and for concentrically narrowed atherosclerotic vessels (r=0.90). However, the correlation between angiography and ultrasound was only fair for eccentrically narrowed arteries (r=0.79) and was poor following angioplasty (r=0.30). Coronary artery wall motion was measured by intravascular ultrasound and demonstrated significant differences between normal arteries (18% lumen area change) and atherosclerotic vessels (11% change). Coronary ultrasound demonstrated important differences in the structure of normal and altherosclerotic vessel walls. Arteries in normal subjects exhibited a thin intimal leading-edge echo (mean 0.20 mm) and subadjacent sonolucent zone (mean 0.12 mm). Atherosclerotic vessels typically demonstrated increased thickness of both structures and often exhibited dense fibrocalcific plaques that shadowed underlying anatomy. These ultrasound abnormalities were often present at angiographically normal sites. Several limitations of coronary intravascular ultrasound were apparent, including echo 'dropout', distortions produced by non-coaxial imaging, and inability to image small or severely narrowed vessels. Coronary intravascular ultrasound holds great promise for the detection and quantification of CAD in the clinical setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-177
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Cardiac Imaging
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Sep 1991


  • coronary atherosclerosis
  • intravascular ultrasound
  • quantification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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