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The abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a common vascular disease. The current clinical criterion for treating AAAs is an increased diameter above a critical value. However, the maximum diameter does not correlate well with aortic rupture, the main cause of death from AAA disease. AAA disease leads to changes in the aortic wall mechanical properties. The pulse-wave velocity (PWV) may indicate such a change. Because of limitations in temporal and spatial resolution, the widely used foot-to-foot method measures the global, instead of regional, PWV between two points at a certain distance in the circulation. However, mechanical properties are nonuniform along the normal and pathological (e.g., the AAA and atherosclerosis) arteries; thus, such changes are typically regional. Pulse-wave imaging (PWI) has been developed by our group to map the pulse-wave propagation along the abdominal aorta in mice in vivo. By using a retrospective electrocardiogram (ECG) gating technique, the radio-frequency (RF) signals over one cardiac cycle were obtained in murine aortas at the extremely high frame rate of 8 kHz and with a field-of-view (FOV) of 12 times 12 mm2. The velocities of the aortic wall were estimated using an RF-based speckle tracking method. An Angiotensin II (AngII) infusion-based AAA model was used to simulate the human AAA case. Sequences of wall velocity images can noninvasively and quantitatively map the propagation of the pulse wave along the aortic wall. In the normal and sham aortas, the propagation of the pulse wave was relatively uniform along the wall, while in the AngII-treated aortas, the propagation was shown to be nonuniform. There was no significant difference (p > 0.05) in the PWV between sham (4.67 plusmn 1.15 m/s, n = 5) and AngII-treated (4.34 plusmn 1.48 m/s, n = 17) aortas. The correlation coefficient of the linear regression was significantly higher (p < 0.005) in the sham aortas (0.89 plusmn 0.03, n = 5) than in the - ngII-treated ones (0.61 plusmn 0.15, n = 17). The wall velocities induced by the pulse wave were lower and the pulse wave moved nonuniformly along the AngII-treated aorta (p < 0.005), with the lowest velocities at the aneurysmal regions. The discrepancy in the regional wall velocity and the nonuniform pulse-wave propagation along the AngII-treated aorta indicated the inhomogeneities in the aortic wall properties, and the reduced wall velocities indicated stiffening of the aneurysmal wall. This novel technique may thus constitute an early detection tool of vascular degeneration as well as serve as a suitable predictor of AAA rupture, complementary to the current clinical screening practice.
Date of Publication: April 2009