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New scanning technique may predict heart attack risk

Monday 24th July 2017
UK scientists have developed a new scanning technique that may be able to identify which patients are most at risk of heart attacks. Image: sudok1 via iStock
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A new scanning technique developed by UK doctors could help to predict which patients are more likely to suffer a heart attack.

Scientists based at the University of Oxford have identified a diagnostic benefit to scanning the heart to look for inflammation around arteries, which can be a sign that a patient is at heightened risk of a heart attack.

This is typically characterised by redness and swelling, which CT scans can pick up, allowing doctors to predict which patients may be at increased risk of cardiovascular problems.

More redness means more risk, but doctors believe being able to identify this in patients during routine check-ups or other medical appointments could allow people to make changes to their lifestyles to try to reduce the inflammation around their arteries and subsequently lower their heart attack risk.

Another sign that the new scanning technique is able to pick up is watery tissue around arteries, as this is often present where inflammation causes fat to start to break down.

Speaking to BBC News, lead author of the study Professor Charalambos Antoniades explained: "This technology may predict who will have a heart attack in the future. It means you could go to your GP, change your prescription and prevent it before it happens."

Commenting on the new innovation, Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, stated: "Discovering which plaques are likely to rupture so people can be treated before such a devastating event strikes is a major objective of current research.

"If the technique lives up to its promise in larger trials in patients, it could lead to more effective treatment to avoid a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke."

The University of Oxford research team is currently analysing 2,000 CT scans of patients' hearts to see whether this method is indeed accurate in identifying those at greatest risk of a heart attack, with results of this investigation expected before the end of the year.

Written by Mathew Horton

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