Assessment of atherosclerotic plaque activity in patients with sleep apnea using hybrid positron emission tomography/magnetic resonance imaging (PET/MRI): a feasibility study

Vaishnavi Kundel, Maria Giovanna Trivieri, Nicolas A. Karakatsanis, Phillip M. Robson, Venkatesh Mani, Jorge R. Kizer, Robert Kaplan, Zahi Fayad, Neomi Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: Evidence suggests that the inflammatory state of an atherosclerotic plaque is important in predicting future risk of plaque rupture. This study aims to investigate the feasibility of measuring plaque inflammation in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) utilizing advanced vascular imaging — hybrid positron-emission tomography/magnetic resonance imaging (PET/MRI) with fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) tracer—before and after continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Methods: Patients with newly diagnosed moderate to severe OSA underwent baseline PET/MRI for assessment of vascular inflammation of the carotid arteries and thoracic aorta prior to initiation of CPAP. Those adherent to CPAP returned for repeat imaging after 3–6 months of CPAP use. Atherosclerotic plaque activity, as measured by arterial wall FDG uptake, was calculated using target-to-background ratios (TBR) before and after CPAP. Results: Five patients were recruited as part of a focused project. Mean age was 52 years (80% male), and mean apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) was 33. Three patients were objectively adherent with CPAP. In the pre-CPAP phase, all patients had focal FDG uptake in the carotid arteries and aorta. After CPAP, there was an average reduction in TBR of 5.5% (TBR mean ) and 6.2% (TBR max ) in carotid and aortic plaque inflammation, similar in magnitude to the reduction observed with statin therapy alone in non-OSA patients (previously reported by others). Conclusions: We demonstrate the feasibility of using hybrid PET/MRI to assess atherosclerotic plaque inflammation in patients with OSA before and after CPAP. Use of the vascular PET/MRI platform in patients with OSA may provide better insight into the role of OSA and its treatment in reducing atherosclerotic inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1125-1135
Number of pages11
JournalSleep and Breathing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018



  • Atherosclerosis
  • CPAP
  • Inflammation
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Plaque

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Clinical Neurology

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