Scientists develop new technique that could improve heart attack prediction

April 24, 2012

An award-winning research project, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), has tested a new imaging method which could help improve how doctors predict a patient's risk of having a heart attack.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh, a BHF Centre of , in collaboration with the University of Cambridge are the first to demonstrate the potential of combining PET and CT scanning to image the disease processes directly in the coronary arteries that cause heart attacks.

There are nearly 2.7 million people living with (CHD) in the UK and it kills 88,000 people each year. Most of these deaths are caused by a . Each year there are around 124,000 heart attacks in the UK.

The research, published in the (JACC), involved giving over 100 people a CT calcium score to measure the amount of calcified or hardened plaques in their coronary arteries. This is a standard test, which is commonly used to predict CHD risk but cannot distinguish calcium that has been there for some time from calcium that is actively building up.

The patients were also injected with two tracers, special molecules that show up on certain imaging scans and can be used to track substances in the body.

One of these tracers, 18F-sodium fluoride (18F-NaF), is a molecule taken up by cells in which active calcification is occurring. The 18F-NaF can then be picked up and measured on PET scans.

The researchers wanted to see if they could identify patients with active, ongoing calcification because these patients may be at higher risk than patients in whom the calcium developed a long time ago.

The results showed that increased 18F-NaF activity could be observed in specific plaques in patients who had many other high-risk markers of cardiovascular disease.

Dr Marc Dweck, lead author on the research paper and a BHF Clinical Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, said:

"Predicting heart attacks is very difficult and the methods we've got now are good but not perfect. Our new technique holds a lot of promise as a means of improving heart attack prediction although further ongoing work is needed before it becomes routine clinical practice.

"If we can identify at high risk of a heart attack earlier, we can then use intensive drug treatments, and perhaps procedures such as stents, to reduce the chances of them having a heart attack."

Dr Shannon Amoils, Research Advisor at the (BHF), which funded the study, said:

"For decades cardiologists have been looking for ways to detect the high-risk plaques found in coronary arteries that could rupture to cause a heart attack, but it's been difficult to develop a suitable imaging test that can focus in on these small vessels.

"This research is a technical tour de force as it allows us to assess active calcification happening right in the problem area – inside the wall of the coronary arteries and this active calcification may correlate with a higher risk of a heart attack."

The research follows on from recent work Dr Dweck did using PET/CT that provided greater insight into the aortic valve disease – aortic stenosis. With the support of the BHF, Dr Dweck and his colleagues at Edinburgh also intend to translate this technique into predicting a patient's risk of a stroke.

Explore further: New scanning strategy could help develop heart disease treatments

More information: Dweck M et al (2012). Coronary arterial 18F-Sodium Fluoride Uptake. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Currently available online: content.onlinejacc.org/cgi/con … /abstract/59/17/1539

Information about this research is available here: www.bhf.org.uk/default.aspx?page=14021

Related Stories

New scanning strategy could help develop heart disease treatments

December 12, 2011
Patients with life-threatening heart valve disease could be helped with alternative scanning techniques that provide greater insight into the condition.

CT angiography improves detection of heart disease in African-Americans

June 28, 2011
Researchers may have discovered one reason that African Americans are at increased risk for heart attacks and other cardiovascular events.

Super-sticky 'ultra-bad' cholesterol revealed in people at high risk of heart disease

May 27, 2011
Scientists from the University of Warwick have discovered why a newly found form of cholesterol seems to be 'ultra-bad', leading to increased risk of heart disease. The discovery could lead to new treatments to prevent heart ...

Recommended for you

Could aggressive blood pressure treatments lead to kidney damage?

July 18, 2017
Aggressive combination treatments for high blood pressure that are intended to protect the kidneys may actually be damaging the organs, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Quantifying effectiveness of treatment for irregular heartbeat

July 17, 2017
In a small proof-of-concept study, researchers at Johns Hopkins report a complex mathematical method to measure electrical communications within the heart can successfully predict the effectiveness of catheter ablation, the ...

Concerns over side effects of statins stopping stroke survivors taking medication

July 17, 2017
Negative media coverage of the side effects associated with taking statins, and patients' own experiences of taking the drugs, are among the reasons cited by stroke survivors and their carers for stopping taking potentially ...

Study discovers anticoagulant drugs are being prescribed against safety advice

July 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that GPs are prescribing anticoagulants to patients with an irregular heartbeat against official safety advice.

Protein may protect against heart attack

July 14, 2017
DDK3 could be used as a new therapy to stop the build-up of fatty material inside the arteries

Heart study finds faulty link between biomarkers and clinical outcomes

July 14, 2017
Surrogate endpoints (biomarkers), which are routinely used in clinical research to test new drugs, should not be trusted as the ultimate measure to approve new health interventions in cardiovascular medicine, according to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.