Synchrotron radiation computed tomography assessment of calcified plaques and coronary stenosis with different slice thicknesses and beam energies on 3D printed coronary models
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Background: To investigate the effect of different slice thicknesses and beam energies on the visualization and assessment of coronary artery stenosis caused by calcified plaques using synchrotron radiation computed tomography (CT) based on 3D printed coronary artery models. Methods: Patient-specific 3D coronary models were created based on 3 sample coronary CT angiographic cases with calcified plaques in the left coronary arteries. In addition to the original significant coronary stenosis (>70%) shown on these CT images, stenoses of <50% and >90% were created in the segmented coronary models for simulation of different degrees of stenosis. The coronary lumen and calcification were printed with soft and rigid materials to simulate properties of coronary wall and calcified plaque, respectively. The models were scanned with synchrotron radiation CT with beam energies of 30, 40 and 50 keV and spatial resolution of 0.019×0.019×0.019 mm3 voxel size. Original high-resolution images were reconstructed with slice thicknesses of 0.095, 0.208, 0.302 and 0.491 mm to determine the effect of spatial resolution on plaque and coronary stenosis assessment based on 2D axial and 3D virtual intravascular endoscopy (VIE) images. Results: Three coronary artery models were successfully printed with plaques placed in the coronary arteries to simulate different degrees of stenosis. 2D and 3D VIE images reconstructed with slice thicknesses of 0.095, 0.208 and 0.302 mm allowed for accurate assessment of coronary plaques and lumen stenosis with no significant differences (P>0.05). Synchrotron radiation CT images reconstructed with a slice thickness of 0.491 mm resulted in overestimation of coronary stenosis when compared to other images on 2D and 3D VIE views (<50% vs. 55–72%; 70–79% vs. 80–90%) with significant differences (P<0.05). Similarly, irregular plaque appearances were observed on 2D and 3D VIE images with a slice thickness of 0.491 mm when compared to others using thin slice thicknesses. The scanning protocol with beam energy of 30 keV provided optimal visualization of coronary lumen and plaque appearances. Conclusions: This study shows the feasibility of using 3D printed coronary artery models to simulate calcifications and different degrees of coronary stenosis. High resolution synchrotron radiation CT imaging with the 30 keV beam energy enables accurate assessment of coronary stenosis in the presence of calcification, thus highlighting the importance of high spatial resolution in the diagnosis of calcified coronary plaques.
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