Three-dimensional geometry of the human carotid artery

Alexey V. Kamenskiy, Jason N. MacTaggart, Iraklis I. Pipinos, Jai Bikhchandani, Yuris A. Dzenis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Accurate characterization of carotid artery geometry is vital to our understanding of the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Three-dimensional computer reconstructions based on medical imaging are now ubiquitous; however, mean carotid artery geometry has not yet been comprehensively characterized. The goal of this work was to build and study such geometry based on data from 16 male patients with severe carotid artery disease. Results of computerized tomography angiography were used to analyze the cross-sectional images implementing a semiautomated segmentation algorithm. Extracted data were used to reconstruct the mean three-dimensional geometry and to determine average values and variability of bifurcation and planarity angles, diameters and cross-sectional areas. Contrary to simplified carotid geometry typically depicted and used, our mean artery was tortuous exhibiting nonplanarity and complex curvature and torsion variations. The bifurcation angle was 36 deg ± 11 deg if measured using arterial centerlines and 15 deg ± 14 deg if measured between the walls of the carotid bifurcation branches. The average planarity angle was 11 deg ± 10 deg. Both bifurcation and planarity angles were substantially smaller than values reported in most studies. Cross sections were elliptical, with an average ratio of semimajor to semiminor axes of 1.2. The cross-sectional area increased twofold in the bulb compared to the proximal common, but then decreased 1.5-fold for the combined area of distal internal and external carotid artery. Inter-patient variability was substantial, especially in the bulb region; however, some common geometrical features were observed in most patients. Obtained quantitative data on the mean carotid artery geometry and its variability among patients with severe carotid artery disease can be used by biomedical engineers and biomechanics vascular modelers in their studies of carotid pathophysiology, and by endovascular device and materials manufacturers interested in the mean geometrical features of the artery to target the broad patient population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number064502
JournalJournal of Biomechanical Engineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2012


  • atherosclerosis
  • bifurcation angle
  • carotid artery
  • curvature
  • mean geometry
  • three-dimensional geometry
  • torsion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Physiology (medical)


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