Those at highest risk of heart attack could be identified
- 11 Nov
New heart scans with radioactive tracers identify fatty plaques in the arteries that can lead to dangerous clots.
A method of scanning the heart which uses high resolution images and radioactive traces could help doctors identify people who are at the highest risk of a heart attack.
The test has been developed by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, can identify dangerous fatty plaques in the heart's arteries, which can lead to clots if they rupture, reports the Guardian.
The radioactive tracers seek out active and dangerous plaques, which, combined with high resolution images of the heart and blood vessels, can provide a picture of the main danger areas.
Cardiologist Dr Marc Dweck told the BBC: "I suspect not all plaques detected will cause a heart attack, but it could be useful for identifying high risk patients who need aggressive therapy."
These finding could help doctors when deciding which treatment they should prescribe to patients.
The new scan has been tested on 40 patients who had recently had a heart attack and highlighted the plaque which cause heart attacks in 37 of the patients.
It is the first time a scan has identified danger zones, however further research is needed to discover if the detection of dangerous plaques before, rather than after a heart attack can save lives.
Scientists plan to examine high-risk patients, including those who are about to have surgery.
Dweck said: "Heart attacks are the biggest killer in the Western world and there is no prior warning, the first time people know about heart disease is when they have a heart attack. If we can treat and stabilise the plaques then we might be able to prevent heart attacks and stop people dying."
Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Being able to identify dangerous fatty plaques likely to cause a heart attack is something that conventional heart tests can't do. This research suggests that PET-CT scanning may provide an answer - identifying 'ticking time bomb' patients at risk of a heart attack. Nearly 20 years of BHF-funded research has led us to this point. We now need to confirm these findings, and then understand how best to use new tests like this in the clinic to benefit heart patients."
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Image source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/580319
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