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Nuclear stress test can detect more than blockages
Date:7/14/2008

A less invasive test commonly used to diagnose coronary disease also may be used to detect one of the leading causes of heart failure, say researchers at the Medical College of Georgia.

By using a nuclear stress test to look at how fast blood flows into the heart's pumping chamber the left ventricle they can determine if a patient's left ventricle is having trouble.

When the ventricle fails to properly fill with blood because it's stiff and unable to relax, it's called diastolic dysfunction, accounting for 40 to 60 percent of patients with heart failure, according to the American Heart Association. When it occurs, the left side of the heart pumps too little blood while the right side continues to pump normally, and the lungs fill up with blood.

"If someone has a slow fill rate, that means the left ventricle is not relaxed enough to get enough blood," says Dr. Dineshkumar Patel, internal medicine resident. "And if the left ventricle cannot receive enough blood, then it cannot collect enough blood to be pumped out to the rest of the body. There is a four-fold increase in morbidity and mortality when diastolic dysfunction is present in patients with coronary disease."

It is easier for physicians to test how well the heart pumps, called systolic function, using an echocardiogram and cardiac catheterization, says Dr. Patel.

An echocardiogram utilizes an ultrasound beam that travels through the front of the chest wall and lungs to the heart, and cardiac catheterization is a very invasive procedure using a thin plastic tube which is inserted into an artery or vein in the arm or leg and advanced into the chambers of the heart.

"But not all patients can undergo this test because it is so invasive," Dr. Patel adds. "And it's difficult to diagnose diastolic dysfunction with these [tests] when the systolic function is normal because you can have a perfectly normal pumping heart and still have this condition.
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Contact: Amy Connell
aconnell@mcg.edu
706-721-8605
Medical College of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert  

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