A combined imaging technique could help doctors predict a patient’s risk of having a heart attack, researchers have found.
Scientists from the University of Cambridge and Edinburgh and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) found that combining positron emission tomography (PET) and computerised tomography could help improve how doctors predict a patient’s risk of having a heart attack. The research also highlights the disease process causing heart attacks directly within the coronary arteries.
119 volunteers were used in the test, with ages between 64 and 80 who don’t suffer from aortic valve disease. The researchers used the standard calcium test to measure the amount of calcified plaques in their coronary arteries, which is a common test to predict heart attack risk, and were then also injected with two contrast agents.
18F-Fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) was used in imaging of atherosclerotic plaque inflammation by Cambridge researchers a decade ago, and18F-sodium fluoride (18F-NaF) was used which can then be visualised and quantified during a PET scan.
“Predicting heart attacks is very difficult and methods we’ve got now are good but not perfect,” said Dr Marc Dweck, lead author and BHF Clinical Research Fellow. “Our new technique holds a lot of promise as a means of improving heart attack prediction.”
They found increased 18F-NaF activity could be observed in specific coronary artery plaques in patients who had many high-risk markers of cardiovascular disease. This shows that certain areas of atherosclerosis within the coronary arteries could have the potential to cause heart attack.
“Once identified, they might be targeted with drug therapy more effectively. Additionally, we might be able to improve our ability to predict an individual person’s future risk of heart attack using this fairly straightforward imaging test in selected people,” Dr James Rudd, joint senior author from Cambridge concluded.
The research has been published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology.