Ex vivo vessel wall thickness measurements of the human circle of Willis using 7T MRI

Harteveld, Anita A., Denswil, Nerissa P., Van Hecke, Wim, Kuijf, Hugo J., Vink, Aryan, Spliet, Wim G.M., Daemen, Mat J., Luijten, Peter R., Zwanenburg, Jaco J.M., Hendrikse, Jeroen, van der Kolk, Anja G.


Atherosclerosis 273 p. 106-114


Background and aims: MRI can detect intracranial vessel wall thickening before any luminal stenosis is present. Apart from representing a vessel wall lesion, wall thickening could also reflect normal (age-related) variations in vessel wall thickness present throughout the intracranial arterial vasculature. The aim of this study was to perform vessel wall thickness measurements of the major intracranial arteries in ex vivo circle of Willis (CoW) specimens using 7T MRI, to obtain more detailed information about wall thickness variations of the intracranial arteries. Methods: Fifteen human CoW specimens were scanned at 7T MRI with an ultrahigh-resolution T1-weighted sequence. Five specimens were used for validation of MRI measurements with histology and evaluation of inter-rater reliability and agreement. The other 10 specimens from patients with (n = 5) and without (n = 5) cerebrovascular disease were used for vessel wall thickness measurements over the entire length of the major arterial segments of the CoW using MRI only. Results: MRI measurements showed excellent agreement with histology. Mean wall thickness varied from 0.45 to 0.66 mm, minimum wall thickness from 0.31 to 0.42 mm, maximum wall thickness from 0.52 to 0.86 mm, and normalized wall index from 0.64 to 0.75. On average, vessel walls were thicker for symptomatic patients compared to asymptomatic patients. Conclusions: High-resolution MRI enables accurate measurement of vessel wall thickness in ex vivo CoW specimens. Vessel wall thickness measurements over the entire length of segments showed considerable variation both within and between arterial segments of patients.