Quantification of iron in the presence of calcium with dual-energy computed tomography (DECT) in an ex vivo porcine plaque model

Jia Wang, Nitin Garg, Xinhui Duan, Yu Liu, Shuai Leng, Lifeng Yu, Erik L. Ritman, Birgit Kantor, Cynthia H. McCollough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Scopus citations


Iron deposits secondary to microbleeds often co-exist with calcium in coronary plaques. The purpose of this study was to quantify iron in the presence of calcium in an ex vivo porcine arterial plaque model using a clinical dual-energy CT (DECT) scanner. A material decomposition method to quantify the mass fractions of iron and calcium within a mixture using DECT was developed. Mixture solutions of known iron and calcium concentrations were prepared to calibrate and validate the DECT-based algorithm. Simulated plaques with co-existing iron and calcium were created by injecting the mixture solutions into the vessel wall of porcine carotid arteries and aortas. These vessel regions were harvested and scanned using a clinical DECT system and iron mass fraction was calculated for each sample. Iron- and calcium-specific staining was conducted on 5 νm thick histological sections of vessel samples to confirm the co-existence of iron and calcium in the simulated plaques. The proposed algorithm accurately quantified iron and calcium amounts in mixture solutions. Maps of iron mass fraction of 60 artery segments were obtained from CT images at two energies. The sensitivity for detecting the presence of iron was 83% and the specificity was 92% using a threshold at an iron mass fraction of 0.25%. Histological analysis confirmed the co-localization of iron and calcium within the simulated plaques. Iron quantification in the presence of calcium was feasible in excised arteries at an iron mass fraction of around 1.5% or higher using current clinical DECT scanners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7305-7316
Number of pages12
JournalPhysics in medicine and biology
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 21 2011


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

Cite this