New research to determine if a CT scan could prevent heart attack

New research aims to identify if a CT scan can determine a patient’s risk of heart attack.

Heart Foundation funded researcher, Dr Dennis Wong, will not only explore this technique but if found to be successful, will ascertain how doctors should then treat patients with identified risk.

Dr Wong said a heart attack usually occurs due to rupturing of plaque following cholesterol build-up in the major heart arteries.

“Previously, vulnerable plaque at high risk of rupturing could only be identified using invasive techniques, such as intravascular ultrasound. However, recent developments in CT technology have made identification using a more non-invasive method possible,” said Dr Wong.

“No prospective large studies using new generation CT scanners have looked at the association between these plaques and heart attack, and there is currently no evidence to guide clinicians on how to manage vulnerable plaque,” Dr Wong added.

Currently, cardiac CT technology is increasingly used to investigate patients with symptoms of chest pain. Some patients will only have mild narrowing of the coronary artery and hence won’t need stents or open heart bypass surgery, however, some of these mild narrowings are made up of atherosclerotic plaque which may have vulnerable plaque features.

Dr Wong will study over 4,000 patients who have had cardiac CT scans with at least 3 years follow up.

“I will observe how many patients with vulnerable plaque on their CT scan end up having a heart attack over a 3-year period.

“Should I find an association between vulnerable plaque and increased risk of heart attack, I will then determine if there is medication we can use to reduce a patient’s risk of that plaque rupturing and causing a heart attack.”

Dr Amanda Rischbieth, Heart Foundation SA CEO said this will be the first time such a study will be carried out, and is an example of generous donations from the Australian community being used to undertake leading heart research.

“The Heart Foundation is always looking for new ways to work out a person’s risk of having a heart attack, as it remains one of the major causes of death in Australia.

“There are approximately 75,000 people in Australia who suffer a heart attack or unstable angina every year – about one in eight of these events are attributable to mild narrowings.

“This research could potentially help 9000 patients every year, or 24 people a day,” said Dr Rischbieth.

“We await the results of this research to see if this type of testing offers any improvement in finding those at high risk of a heart attack. Currently, the most effective way to find out your risk of a heart attack is to see your GP and get a Heart and Stroke Risk Test,” said Dr Rischbieth.

“We hope to raise $5 million through our Big Heart Appeal this September to continue to fund critical research like this, and community projects that improve awareness, prevention and treatment of heart disease,” added Dr Rischbieth.

Dr Wong is a Heart Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow. He is working with the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and MonashHeart, Victoria, where he is now based.

Source: Heart Foundation
Image Source: Herald Sun

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Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities with another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years of experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities.

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