Identification of micro-channels within chronic total occlusions using contrast-enhanced ultrasound

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Background: Vascular micro-channels within chronic total occlusions (CTO) have been identified in histopathology and animal studies. They have been proposed as a potential path for achieving endovascular crossing via the lumen. There are currently no noninvasive means of imaging these structures. The aim of this study was to investigate whether contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) examination can identify micro-channels within CTO in humans. Methods: CTO within the femoropopliteal arteries were imaged with CEUS examination in 38 patients. Segments containing micro-channels were identified and their length measured. The proportion of occlusion length containing micro-channels was assessed for each case. Micro-channel appearances including linear or tortuous configuration, crossing of occlusion caps, and connections to vasa vasorum were recorded. Results: The median CTO length was 17.0 cm (interquartile range [IQR], 6.9-27.9 cm) and median age of CTO was 12 months (IQR, 6-16 months). Micro-channels were identified in 92.1% of cases (35/38). The median length within a lesion containing micro-channels was 6.4 cm (IQR, 2.4-14.3 cm) and median proportion of CTO containing micro-channels was 47.9% (IQR, 1.7%-28.5%). A linear micro-channel configuration was seen in 84.2% of cases and a tortuous configuration was seen in 57.9% of cases. Micro-channel connections through the cap were seen in 50% (19/38 cases) and connections to the vasa vasorum in 71.1% (27/38 cases). No association was found between the proportion of each lesion containing micro-channels and CTO age, lesion length or calcification severity. There were no adverse effects related to contrast use. Conclusions: CEUS can be used to detect micro-channels in CTO in human femoropopliteal arteries. This imaging technique is safe and minimally invasive and may represent a practical method for selection of occlusion crossing method. Further work is required to determine whether identification of micro-channels can be used to improve treatment decision-making and provide a better understanding of the natural history of femoropopliteal CTO.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)606-614.e1
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Vascular Surgery
Issue number2
Early online date4 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Chronic total occlusion
  • Contrast-enhanced ultrasound
  • Femoropopliteal artery
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Ultrasound


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