A new heart imaging method developed in England can detect tiny clusters of inflamed fat cells, long before they can cause greater inflammation and the formation of arterial-wall plaque that can block coronary arteries.
Imaging methods currently in widespread use all too frequently don’t reveal coronary artery-blocking until it’s too late to treat it with just statin drugs, and after open-heart surgery has thus become necessary to graft in new blood vessels and/or to insert possibly needed stents. Also, sometimes a heart attack or a stroke even occur without there having been any prior warning or anticipation of it. Heart attacks are a major health problem in North America; it’s been found that about 750,000 Americans have a heart attack every year.
The new imaging procedure is claimed to reveal lesions early that put patients at potentially great risk. Inflamed fat cells that are morphing into
atherosclerotic plaques within coronary arteries, can readily rupture and cause heart attacks. The inflammation is dangerous in and of itself, not just the plaques — in fact, it’s perhaps even more dangerous. The new coronary-artery imaging method can show up inflammation very early so that effective treatment with statin drugs can get started in a timely manner.
Current medical practice is to perform many different tests — for cholesterol, for blood pressure and heart pulse rate, for the health of the electrical signals governing heart operation, and for coronary-artery blockage using conventional imaging methods. Unfortunately, none of these methods reveals incipient blockages early enough to justify beginning effective conservative treatment with statin medicines; and so, when they reveal a problem, open-heart surgery to graft in a blood vessel or to insert a stent has become the only really-viable choice. The new method, once it has become fully tested and widely adopted, can allow warding off heart disease in many cases, rather than just repairing it after it has already happened.
The research study about this new imaging method examined 450 people undergoing coronary-artery-bypass surgery and compared them with 270 people being tested for possibly needing the surgery. The researchers figured out a way to use Computerized Tomography (CT) to determine which layers of fat were inflamed and unstable, by examining the size and shape of the fat cells. The results of the research were so encouraging that a much-larger-scale research project is planned, to further validate the new imaging method.
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