Strain distribution over plaques in human coronary arteries relates to shear stress

Frank J.H. Gijsen, Jolanda J. Wentzel, Attila Thury, Frits Mastik, Johannes A. Schaar, Johan C.H. Schuurbiers, Cornelis J. Slager, Wim J. Van Der Giessen, Pim J. De Feyter, Anton F.W. Van Der Steen, Patrick W. Serruys

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Once plaques intrude into the lumen, the shear stress they are exposed to alters with hitherto unknown consequences for plaque composition. We investigated the relationship between shear stress and strain, a marker for plaque composition, in human coronary arteries. We imaged 31 plaques in coronary arteries with angiography and intravascular ultrasound. Computational fluid dynamics was used to obtain shear stress. Palpography was applied to measure strain. Each plaque was divided into four regions: upstream, throat, shoulder, and downstream. Average shear stress and strain were determined in each region. Shear stress in the upstream, shoulder, throat, and downstream region was 2.55 ± 0.89, 2.07 ± 0.98, 2.32 ± 1.11, and 0.67 ± 0.35 Pa, respectively. Shear stress in the downstream region was significantly lower. Strain in the downstream region was also significantly lower than the values in the other regions (0.23 ± 0.08% vs. 0.48 ± 0.15%, 0.43 ± 0.17%, and 0.47 ± 0.12%, for the upstream, shoulder, and throat regions, respectively). Pooling all regions, dividing shear stress per plaque into tertiles, and computing average strain showed a positive correlation; for low, medium, and high shear stress, strain was 0.23 ± 0.10%, 0.40 ± 0.15%, and 0.60 ± 0.18%, respectively. Low strain colocalizes with low shear stress downstream of plaques. Higher strain can be found in all other plaque regions, with the highest strain found in regions exposed to the highest shear stresses. This indicates that high shear stress might destabilize plaques, which could lead to plaque rupture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)H1608-H1614
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2008


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Intravascular ultrasound
  • Palpography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

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    Gijsen, F. J. H., Wentzel, J. J., Thury, A., Mastik, F., Schaar, J. A., Schuurbiers, J. C. H., Slager, C. J., Van Der Giessen, W. J., De Feyter, P. J., Van Der Steen, A. F. W., & Serruys, P. W. (2008). Strain distribution over plaques in human coronary arteries relates to shear stress. American Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology, 295(4), H1608-H1614.