Date of Award


Degree Type



Chemical and Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Halliburton, Sandra

Subject Headings

Cardiovascular system -- Tomography, Cardiovascular system -- Diseases -- Diagnosis, Heart -- Tomography, Heart -- Imaging, Dual-energy computed tomography, Cardiovascular Imaging, Coronary artery disease, Diagnostic Imaging


Atherosclerotic coronary artery disease is responsible for around 50 of cardiovascular deaths in USA. Early detection and characterization of coronary artery atherosclerotic plaque could help prevent cardiac events. Computed tomography (CT) is an excellent modality for imaging calcifications and has higher spatial resolution than other common non-invasive modalities (e.g MRI), making it more suitable for coronary plaque detection. However, attenuation-based classification of non-calcified plaques as fibrous or lipid is difficult with conventional CT, which relies on a single x-ray energy. Dual-energy CT (DECT) may provide additional attenuation data for the identification and discrimination of plaque components. The purpose of this research was to evaluate the feasibility of DECT imaging for coronary plaque characterization and further, to explore the limits of CT for non-invasive plaque analysis. DECT techniques were applied to plaque classification using a clinical CT system. Saline perfused coronary arteries from autopsies were scanned at 80 and 140 kVp, prior to and during injection of iodinated contrast. Plaque attenuation was measured from CT images and matched to histology. Measurements were compared to assess differences among plaque types. Although calcified and non-calcified plaques could be identified and differentiated with DECT, further characterization of non-calcified plaques was not possible. The results also demonstrated that calcified plaque and iodine could be discriminated. The limits of x-ray based non-calcified plaque discrimination were assessed using microCT, a pre-clinical x-ray based high spatial resolution modality. Phantoms and tissues of different composition were scanned using different tube voltages (i.e., different energies) and resulting attenuation values were compared. Better vessel wall visualization and increase in tissue contrast resolution was observed with decrease in x-ray energy. Feasibility of calcium quantification from contrast-enhanced scans by creating "virtual" no