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Imaging Method Might Screen For Heart Attack

July 26, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Cardiac Imaging
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A new imaging technique might allow early detection of—and screening for—heart attack risk.

Researchers used near-infrared spectroscopy performed with a special coronary catheter to detect lipid core plaques for the first time in living patients. Previous research has blamed most major heart attacks—ST-segment elevation myocardial infarctions, or STEMIs—on rupture of lipid core plaques, which are rich in cholesterol.

An article detailing the findings of the new study was published online last week in JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions.

Ryan Madder, MD, principal investigator for the study, said the researchers had discovered a signature of the plaques. He added:

This signature is detectable at the time of cardiac catheterization using a novel intracoronary imaging device. It is our hope that this signature may be capable of predicting a myocardial infarction before it happens.

Dr. Madder is an interventional cardiologist with Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was quoted in a Spectrum news release.

Several more steps of research are needed before any kind of screening program can begin—let alone the development of therapies to reduce heart attack risk. For one thing, the research linking lipid core plaques to major heart attacks was based on autopsies, not examinations of living patients. “Further studies are currently under way and others are being planned to validate this signature and to determine if near-infrared spectroscopy can accurately predict future myocardial infarction,” Dr. Madder said.

In a brief Spectrum video available here, he discusses the findings of this study and their importance.

James Muller, MD, is founder, medical director, and board chairman of Infraredx, the Massachusetts-based company that developed the imaging system used in the study. “It is likely that the signature of a heart attack identified in the Spectrum Health study is present long before the event and could therefore be identified before a dangerous heart attack has occurred,” he said, as quoted in the Spectrum release. “The Spectrum Health study will lead to large prospective studies of this possibility.

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