Compared with single 2-D images, emerging 3-D ultrasound technologies hold the promise of reducing variability and increasing sensitivity in the quantification of carotid plaques for individual cardiovascular risk stratification. Inter- and intra-observer agreement between a manual, cross-sectional, 2-D freehand sweep and a mechanical 3-D ultrasound investigation of 62 carotid artery plaques is reported with intra-class correlation coefficients (with 95% confidence intervals). Inter-observer agreement was 0.60 (0.29-0.77) for the freehand method and 0.89 (0.83-0.93) for the mechanical 3-D acquisition. The use of semi-automated computerized planimetric measurements of plaque burden has high intra-observer repeatability, but is vulnerable to systematic inter-observer differences. For the 2-D freehand sweep, a considerable contribution to variation is introduced by the scanning procedure itself, that is, the lack of controlled motion along the third dimension. Future implementation of 3-D ultrasound quantification in large-scale studies of inter-individual cardiovascular risk assessment seems justified using the methods described.
Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology, 2014, Vol 40, Issue 7, p. 1641-1649