[From myocardium to the atherosclerotic plaque: new perspectives in cardiologic imaging].
ABSTRACT Molecular imaging is an innovative and promising approach in cardiology for functional characterization of atherosclerosis. Nuclear, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging have been used for assessment of atherosclerosis of large and small arteries in several clinical and experimental studies. Positron Emission Tomography with fluorodeoxyglucose can measure metabolic activity and vulnerability of atherosclerotic plaques, identifying individuals at risk of future cardiovascular events. Magnetic resonance imaging can quantify carotid artery inflammation using iron oxide nanoparticles as contrast agent. In addition, macrophage accumulation of iron particles in atherosclerotic plaques may allow monitoring of inflammation during drug therapy, whereas contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging may detect plaque neovascularization. Currently, technical factors, including cardiac and diaphragmatic motion and small size of coronary vessels, limit routine application of these techniques for coronary imaging. Purpose of this review is to describe state of the art and potential areas of clinical applications of molecular imaging of atherosclerosis.