Background: Current imaging assessment of peripheral artery disease (PAD) relies on anatomical cross-sectional visualizations of the affected arteries. Multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) is a novel molecular imaging technique that provides direct and label-free visualizations of soft tissue perfusion and oxygenation.
Methods: MSOT was prospectively assessed in a pilot trial in healthy volunteers (group n1=4, mean age 31, 50% male and group n3=4, mean age 37.3, 75% male) and patients with intermittent claudication (group n2=4, mean age 72, 75% male, PAD stage IIb). We conducted cuff-induced ischemia (group n1) and resting state measurements (groups n2 and n3) over the calf region. Spatially resolved mapping of oxygenated (HbO2), deoxygenated (Hb) and total (THb) hemoglobin, as well as oxygen saturation (SO2), were measured via hand-held hybrid MSOT-Ultrasound based purely on hemoglobin contrast.
Results: Calf measurements in healthy volunteers revealed distinct dynamics for HbO2, Hb, THb and SO2 under cuff-induced ischemia. HbO2, THb and SO2 levels were significantly impaired in PAD patients compared to healthy volunteers (P<0.05 for all parameters). Revascularization led to significant improvements in HbO2 of the affected limb. Conclusions: Clinical MSOT allows for non-invasive, label-free and real-time imaging of muscle oxygenation in health and disease with implications for diagnostics and therapy assessment in PAD.

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