BACKGROUND: Quantitative methods for evaluating microstructure of arterial specimens typically rely on histologic techniques that involve random sampling, which cannot account for the unique spatial distribution of features in three dimensions.
METHODS: To overcome this limitation, we demonstrate a nondestructive method for three-dimensional imaging of intact human blood vessels using microcomputed tomography (microCT). Human artery segments were dehydrated and stained in an iodine solution then imaged with a standard laboratory microCT scanner. Image visualization and segmentation was performed using commercially available and open source software.
RESULTS: Staining of cadaveric vessels with iodine enabled clear visualization of the arterial wall with microCT, preserved tissue morphology, and generated high-resolution images with a voxel size of 5.4 μm. Various components of the arterial wall were segmented using a combination of manual and automatic thresholding algorithms.
CONCLUSIONS: Our approach allows for spatial mapping of human artery tissue samples that can guide targeted histologic analysis of smaller tissue segments, provide geometric data to inform finite element models, quantify degree of atherosclerosis, and help to evaluate the foreign body response to intravascular medical implants. (JVS-Vascular Science 2020;2:13-19.).
CLINICAL RELEVANCE: In this article, we describe a powerful technique for whole artery analysis of pathologic human tissue specimens that provides high-resolution spatial detail regarding composition of the blood vessel wall. The protocol described here is a valuable adjunct that can be used as a research tool to inform finite element modeling of arteries, quantify pathologic response (ie, neointimal hyperplasia and vascular calcification), and evaluate the tissue/device interface of implanted medical devices.