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New Device 'Fingers' Heart Risk

Fingertip sensor tracks changes in blood flow, predicting odds for heart attack

TUESDAY, March 31 (HealthDay News) -- A simple finger sensor is highly accurate at predicting a heart attack or stroke in people considered at low or moderate risk for major cardiac events, U.S. researchers report.

They tested a device called the EndoPAT, which measures the health of endothelial cells by measuring blood flow. Endothelial cells line blood vessels and regulate normal blood flow. Improper functioning of endothelial cells can lead to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Until now, there hasn't been a simple test for endothelial function, according to the researchers.

The EndoPAT test takes about 15 minutes. Two thimble-like finger probes are placed on each index finger and connected to a machine that measures blood flow.

The study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic and Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston included 270 patients, ages 42 to 66, who had a low-to-medium risk of a major cardiac event and were followed from August 1999 to August 2007. During that time, 49 percent of patients whose EndoPAT test indicated poor endothelial function suffered a cardiac event.

The findings were to be presented Tuesday at the annual scientific session of the American College of Cardiology, in Orlando, Fla.

The study's senior author is Mayo cardiologist Dr. Amir Lerman, who serves on an advisory board to Itamar Medical, which makes the EndoPAT device. Since the end of the study, Lerman has received consulting fees from Itamar of less than the federal threshold for significant financial interest.

The EndoPAT was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2003.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about atherosclerosis.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, March 26, 2009

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New Device 'Fingers' Heart Risk
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