Author(s): Staub D, Partovi S, Imfeld S, Uthoff H, Baldi T,
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Abstract The use of contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) for vascular imaging indications has increased dramatically during the last decade. Ultrasound contrast agents are gas-filled microbubbles that are injected into the bloodstream and serve as strict intravascular reflectors of ultrasound waves. Numerous studies have addressed the potential clinical use of CEUS in different vascular fields including the carotid arteries, the abdominal aorta, renal arteries and the kidneys. In this review article we discuss the clinical value of contrast agents in vascular ultrasound by enhancing the vascular lumen, and more important, their role as a tool to deliver high resolution, real-time images of microvascular perfusion. Specifically, CEUS imaging of the carotid artery provides a novel, non-invasive method not only to improve the delineation of the vessel wall, but also for the assessment of the vasa vasorum and the ectopic vascularization of the atherosclerotic plaque (intraplaque neovascularization); probably providing a "window" to risk stratify atherosclerotic lesions and individuals by identifying "vulnerable" plaques prone to rupture causing vascular events. CEUS imaging has also emerged as a novel diagnostic tool in various aortic pathologies and particularly for the detection of endoleaks following endovascular treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysms. It is also a valuable tool for the assessment of the tissue perfusion in native and transplanted kidneys providing information on perfusion deficits of the parenchyma. Furthermore, a real-time CEUS method has recently been developed to assess the skeletal muscle microcirculation which could be used to study patients with peripheral arterial occlusive disease or diabetic microangiopathy. In the future, the use of targeted microbubbles could further enhance and expand the diagnostic capabilities of current vascular ultrasound imaging by detecting specific molecular processes that play a role in the pathophysiology of vascular disease.
This article was published in Vasa
and referenced in Anatomy & Physiology: Current Research