British scientists have developed a new technique they say can accurately predict a person’s odds of having a heart attack using PET and CT scans.
The new imaging technique, developed by experts from the University of Edinburgh and funded by the British Heart Foundation, could help doctors identify patients at greatest risk of a heart attack and design treatment programs to prevent it.
The researchers, writing in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, said the approach involves tracking cardiovascular disease processes in the coronary arteries that cause heart attacks.
They measured the amount of calcified or hardened “plaques” actively building up in the arteries of more than 100 people – a chief cause of heart attack. The patients were also injected with two tracers used to track substances in the body using PET scans.
Their results showed that they could identify which patients were most at risk based on the coronary artery plaques, along with other high-risk markers of heart disease.
"Predicting heart attacks is very difficult and the methods we've got now are good but not perfect,” said lead researcher Dr. Marc Dweck. “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 patients 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."