Better View on Narrowing Carotid Artery

Almost one million for the improvement of photoacoustics technique

Carotid Artery
PULS/e photoacoustics & ultrasound lab Eindhoven Photo: Bart van Overbeeke

To prevent a stroke, it’s extremely important that a narrowing carotid artery is detected and treated in an early stage. However, this narrowing often isn’t paired with complaints and therefore a timely diagnoses is difficult. Eindhoven University of Technology and the Catharina Hospital develop a photoacoustic technique – best to be compared with ultrasound – to show the narrowing quickly and accurately. Biomedical engineer and postdoc Min Wu, associate professor Richard Lopata and vascular surgeon and Professor Marc van Sambeek received a donation of 910,000 euros for this purpose from the Jaap Schouten Foundation.

The researchers aim to develop an ultrasound system with a higher image quality that doesn’t just improve the image of the narrowing (stenosis) of the carotid artery, but also determines its composition with the help of photoacoustics. With this information, the clinician can determine whether there is a risk of a cerebral infarction if the stenosis ruptures.

Light Shed On Content Carotid Artery

Ultrasound images are created with ultrasonic sound waves. Photoacoustics is a relatively new technique in which light is emitted. Depending on the wavelength (=’color’), the light is absorbed by specific tissues and not by others. If the light is absorbed, an ultrasonic soundwave arises that can be received by an ultrasound system. The image will show from which type of tissues the narrowing is made up.

They will accomplish this by combining a high-end laser system with large pulse energy and bandwidth (400-2000 nm) with the newest generation of flexible ultrasound probes. The flexible probe in this system illuminates the neck from multiple sides with light as well as sound, what should improve the image quality and penetration depth.

Patient Involvement

If this works, the researchers want to apply the ultrasound system on healthy volunteers and patients with a stenosis in the carotid artery. To this purpose, they will ask for permission as soon as al safety measures are completed.

With the donation, a postdoc, two PhD candidates and a technical assistant will be hired. The Jaap Schouten Foundation encourages medical scientific research with financial support. The foundation focusses on research into cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and urological disorders.