Noninvasive elastography (NIVE) produces elastograms that are difficult to interpret because NIVE visualizes strain in the transducer coordinate system. In this paper, we hypothesized that transforming normal and shear strain elastograms to the vessel coordinate system will produce better strain elastograms. To corroborate this hypothesis, we acquired synthetic-aperture (SA) ultrasound data from simulated and physical vessel phantoms. In both studies, SA echo frames were reconstructed from data acquired with a sparse transducer array. The simulation study was performed with homogeneous and heterogenous phantoms, but in the experimental study we used a modified ultrasound scanner to acquire SA data from homogeneous (n = 1) and heterogeneous (n = 3) vessel phantoms. Axial and lateral displacements were estimated by performing two-dimensional cross-correlation analysis on the beamformed RF echo frames. We generated radial and circumferential strain elastograms by transforming normal and shear strain elastograms to the vessel coordinate system. The results revealed: 1) radial and circumferential strain elastograms acquired from simulated data had a relative root mean squared error on the order of 0.1%; 2) experimentally acquired radial and circumferential strain elastograms had elastographic contrast-to-noise ratio (CNRe) between 10 and 40 dB, and elastographic signal-to-noise ratio (SNRe) between 10 and 35 dB, depending on the number of active transmission elements employed during imaging; 3) radial and circumferential strain elastograms produced with fewer than 8 active transmission elements were inferior to those computed with a greater number of active elements; and 4) plaques were evident in the strain elastograms, except in those obtained with the sparsest transducer array. This study demonstrated that a syntheticaperture ultrasound system could visualize radial and circumferential strain noninvasively.