An award-winning research project, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), has tested a new imaging method which could help improve how doctors predict a patient's risk of having a heart attack (1).
Scientists from the University of Edinburgh, a BHF Centre of Research Excellence, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge are the first to demonstrate the potential of combining PET and CT scanning to image the disease processes directly in the coronary arteries that cause heart attacks (2).
There are nearly 2.7 million people living with coronary heart disease (CHD) in the UK and it kills 88,000 people each year. Most of these deaths are caused by a heart attack. Each year there are around 124,000 heart attacks in the UK (3).
The research, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) (4), involved giving over 100 people a CT calcium score to measure the amount of calcified or hardened plaques in their coronary arteries. This is a standard test, which is commonly used to predict CHD risk but cannot distinguish calcium that has been there for some time from calcium that is actively building up.
The patients were also injected with two tracers, special molecules that show up on certain imaging scans and can be used to track substances in the body.
One of these tracers, 18F-sodium fluoride (18F-NaF), is a molecule taken up by cells in which active calcification is occurring. The 18F-NaF can then be picked up and measured on PET scans.
The researchers wanted to see if they could identify patients with active, ongoing calcification because these patients may be at higher risk than patients in whom the calcium developed a long time ago.
The results showed that increased 18F-NaF activity could be observed in specific coronary artery plaques in patients who had many other high-risk markers of cardiovascular disease.
Dr Marc Dweck, lead author o
|Contact: Ben Kolb|
University of Edinburgh