The CARUS project aims at the development of early predictive and advanced diagnosis technology for atherosclerosis in the carotid artery in response to the major health issues associated with cardiovascular diseases. The ultimate technological goal of the project is to develop an innovative high frame rate matrix ultrasound system for non-invasive real-time three dimensional quantitative assessment of structural and functional vascular properties.

Carotid 3D ultrasound scanner

Development of a new carotid 3D high frame rate ultrasound scanner for advanced diagnosis of cardiovascular disease.

Infarct caused by vulnerable plaque
Plaque formation at blood vessel walls is a major health issue, having lethal consequences. There are two types of plaques, stable ones and unstable, vulnerable plaques. Stable plaques grow larger and eventually obstruct the blood flow. The unstable ones can cause severe problems long before any obstruction occurs; they may suddenly rupture, produce clots and totally block blood supply to brains or heart.

Ultrasound detection of carotid artery
The carotid arteries supply blood to the brain. The blood flow across the carotid bifurcation is such, that plaque is formed there sooner than along straight vessels. A rupture of such a plaque may cause a stroke. Screening seemingly healthy patients for vulnerable plaque is necessary for early intervention. Ultrasound (echo) implies a mobile, cheap system and does not hurt the patients. It is therefore favorable over expensive, immovable equipment as MRI and CT, the latter exposing patients to radiation. Besides, the carotid is an easily accessible artery for ultrasound imaging. 

Project Contents
This research is part of a European EURIPIDES project, with partners in France (Vermon and HEGP) and Maastricht (CARIM, Esaote Europe and PMI).
In order to correctly image and determine the carotid plaque shape, content, and dynamics, we want to develop real-time 3D imaging of the carotid. A 2D matrix transducer with 1024 elements is being developed by Vermon, with a center frequency of 7 MHz. This transducer will be connected to a 128 channel electronic transmitter-receiver device (Lecoeur, France), and requires an intermediate multiplexer (ErasmusMC & Esaote Europe) to connect the 128 channels to 1024 elements. Meanwhile contrast agents, microbubbles, for this specific frequency are being investigated (ErasmusMC).

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