Biomechanical models are used extensively to study risk factors, such as peak stresses, for vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque rupture. Typically, 3D patient-specific arterial models are reconstructed by interpolating between cross sectional contour data which have a certain axial sampling, or image, resolution. The influence of the axial sampling resolution on computed stresses, as well as the comparison of 3D with 2D simulations, is quantified in this study. A set of histological data of four atherosclerotic human coronary arteries was used which were reconstructed in 3D with a high sampling (HS) and low sampling (LS) axial resolution, and 4 slices were treated separately for 2D simulations. Stresses were calculated using finite element analysis (FEA). High stresses were found in thin cap regions and regions of thin vessel walls, low stresses were found inside the necrotic cores and media and adventitia layers. Axial sampling resolution was found to have a minor effect on general stress distributions, peak plaque/cap stress locations and the relationship between peak cap stress and minimum cap thickness. Axial sampling resolution did have a profound influence on the error in computed magnitude of peak plaque/cap stresses (+/- 15.5% for HS vs. LS geometries and +/- 24.0% for HS vs. 2D geometries for cap stresses). The findings of this study show that axial under sampling does not influence the qualitative stress distribution significantly but that high axially sampled 3D models are needed when accurate computation of peak stress magnitudes is required. (c) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.