Calcified plaques in arteries tied to heart attacks

May 27th, 2008 - 5:11 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, May 27 (IANS) Screening calcified plaque in coronary arteries is likely to be a better way of predicting heart attacks, according to a new study. “Now we know the location of calcium in the arteries is particularly important in estimating a patient’s potential risk,” said the study’s co-author Elizabeth Brown of the University of Washington.

Every year, millions die of heart diseases, the most common version being coronary artery disease, caused by calcific plaque build-up in coronary arteries.

Existing procedures gauge only how much calcium is present in the arteries, not its distribution. “This new approach (calcium coverage scoring, or CCS) will provide physicians with a measure of the proportion of the arteries affected.”

The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) began in the US in July 2000 and covered 6,814 men and women aged between 45 and 84.

Researchers compared CT image data of 3,252 participants with calcific plaque to data from 3,416 normal persons. A CCS was developed to estimate the percentage of coronary arteries affected by plaque.

The patients were then followed up for a median period of 41 months to determine if there was a relationship between the distribution of calcium shown in the CT images and the likelihood heart attack or other cardiac event.

The results showed that diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia (abnormal concentrations of fats or lipoproteins in the blood) were highly associated with calcium coverage score.

The study also found that CCS–which takes into account the location of calcium-was a better predictor of future cardiac events than currently used measures that gauge only the amount of calcium present.

On average, compared to normal patients, those with diabetes had 44 percent more of their coronary arteries affected by plaque.

These results of the study have been published in the forthcoming issue of the journal Radiology.

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