Conventional angiography is the current standard for the evaluation of carotid artery disease. The excellent resolution of this invasive study is offset by the potential for contrast-related, embolic, and puncture site complications. Three-dimensional magnetic resonance angiography may offer a noninvasive diagnostic alternative. We examined this possibility by performing both conventional angiography and three-dimensional magnetic resonance angiography in 13 patients. Cervical duplex scans were also obtained in these patients. Contiguous transverse cervical magnetic resonance images were acquired in a 1.5 tesla magnet, by use of a posterior neck coil and a gradient echo pulse sequence. These "raw" data were transferred to a real-time workstation where three-dimensional cervical arterial images were reformatted, magnified, and examined from multiple angles. Total study time from patient positioning to image generation was approximately 30 minutes. In all patients, on three-dimensional magnetic resonance angiography the common, external, and internal carotid arteries and distal vertebral arteries were easily discernable and correctly identified as patent, stenotic, or occluded. Three-dimensional magnetic resonance angiography was not accurate in detecting carotid ulcers. The degree of internal carotid artery stenosis measured from the three-dimensional magnetic resonance angiography studies correlated well with the internal carotid artery stenosis measured with conventional angiography (r = 0.866, r2 = 75.1%, p = less than or equal to 0.0001). This recent technologic advance represents significant progress toward achieving the goal of completely noninvasive vascular assessment in this patient population.
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