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Neck Ultrasound May Detect Artery Disease

June 17, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Cardiac Imaging, Diagnostic Imaging
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A carotid artery ultrasound of the neck—simple, inexpensive, noninvasive, and radiation-free—could be an alternative to the standard coronary angiography as a preliminary diagnostic tool for coronary artery disease (CAD), according to new research from New York University Langone Medical Center.

The researchers said the test could also be used to rule out CAD in patients who exhibit reduced heart pump function. The results of the study appear in the current issue of the American Heart Journal.

“Our research has identified that carotid artery ultrasound is capable of identifying the presence of severe and extensive coronary artery disease,” said Harmony R. Reynolds, MD, assistant professor of medicine and associate director of the Cardiovascular Clinical Research Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. Dr. Reynolds was quoted in a Langone news release.

The study involved 150 patients with no history of heart attack. The ultrasound was used to determine the carotid artery’s intima-media thickness and the presence or absence of plaque. The researchers found it effective in diagnosing or excluding CAD for patients who have heart-muscle weakness without a known cause.

“Based on our findings,” Dr. Reynolds said, “physicians might consider using the carotid ultrasound test as an initial screen for CAD in patients with reduced heart pump function and no history of heart attack. If a patient tests positive for plaque buildup in the neck arteries, then it can be followed by angiography of the heart arteries.”

Coronary angiography is more expensive than ultrasound, is invasive, and carries risks from the contrast material and radiation exposure.

“Ultrasound of the carotid artery is a very widely available and inexpensive technique, offered at NYU Langone Medical Center and virtually all medical centers and even in many cardiologists’ offices,” said Glenn I. Fishman, MD, director of the Leon H. Charney Division of Cardiology and William Goldring Professor of Medicine at Langone. “The study, if replicated in a larger population, could change the screening of patients with unexplained decreased heart pump function and potentially allow them to avoid the need for invasive coronary angiography.”

Related seminar: Cardiac Imaging (just released)

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