Original Investigation| Volume 30, ISSUE 3, P403-411, March 2023

The Value of Superb Microvascular Imaging and Contrast-enhanced Ultrasound for the Evaluation of Neovascularization in Carotid Artery Plaques

Published:September 17, 2022DOI:


      To compare the consistency between superb microvascular imaging (SMI) and contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) for the detection of neovascularization in carotid plaques of different thicknesses and to evaluate the applied value of these two methods for detecting neovascularization in carotid plaques in the clinic.


      A total of 45 patients with carotid artery plaques who were diagnosed in our hospital involving 76 hypoechoic plaques with a thickness ≥2.0 mm were selected. According to thickness, the plaques were divided into three groups: 2.0–2.5 mm, 2.5–3.0 mm and ≥3.0 mm. Each group underwent both SMI and CEUS, and two experienced sonographers (A and B) analyzed the ultrasound images to evaluate the neovascularization of carotid plaques. The amount of the neovascular signal was assessed using a semi-quantitative grading scale (vascularity grade: grade 0–3). SMI and CEUS were graded respectively according to the visual methods as follows: grade 0: no blood flow signal/enhancement within plaques; grade 1: a few blood flow signals/enhancement within plaques; grade 2: medium blood flow signals/enhancement within plaques; and grade 3: extensive blood flow signals/enhancement within plaques. Kappa consistency test was used to analyze the consistency of the grade of neovascularization in plaques between SMI with CEUS. Gamma rank correlation analysis was used to examine the correlation between neovascularization grade by SMI and CEUS in plaque and plaque thickness.


      Of these patients, 14 had unilateral plaques and 31 had bilateral plaques. The two sonographers were highly consistent in terms of applying SMI and CEUS methods for diagnosing neovascularization in carotid plaques (Kappa values were 0.736 and 0.680>0). Consistency was found between SMI and CEUS by sonographers (sonographer A: Kappa=0.823; sonographer B: Kappa=0.842) in evaluating the neovascular grade in the carotid plaques. SMI and CEUS grades were positively correlated with plaque thickness (sonographer A: γ = 0.735 and 0.772; sonographer B: γ = 0.805 and 0.798).


      Neovascularization in carotid plaques was successfully detected by SMI in a manner that concurred well with CEUS results. Our data indicate that both CEUS and SMI have high diagnostic value for assessing the neovascularization of plaques.

      Key Words


      SMI (superb microvascular imaging), CEUS (contrast-enhanced ultrasound), US (ultrasound), CDI (color doppler image), PDI (power doppler image)
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