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Three-dimensional (3-D) ultrasound is a relatively new technique, which is well suited to imaging superficial blood vessels, and potentially provides a useful, noninvasive method for generating anatomically realistic 3-D models of the peripheral vasculature. Such models are essential for accurate simulation of blood flow using computational fluid dynamics (CFD), but may also be used to quantify atherosclerotic plaque more comprehensively than routine clinical methods. In this paper, we present a spline-based method for reconstructing the normal and diseased carotid artery bifurcation from images acquired using a freehand 3-D ultrasound system. The vessel wall (intima-media interface) and lumen surfaces are represented by a geometric model defined using smoothing splines. Using this coupled wall-lumen model, we demonstrate how plaque may be analyzed automatically to provide a comprehensive set of quantitative measures of size and shape, including established clinical measures, such as degree of (diameter) stenosis. The geometric accuracy of 3-D ultrasound reconstruction is assessed using pulsatile phantoms of the carotid bifurcation, and we conclude by demonstrating the in vivo application of the algorithms outlined to 3-D ultrasound scans from a series of patient carotid arteries.