TUESDAY, March 5 (HealthDay News) -- Scarring in the heart's wall may be a key risk factor for death, and scans that calculate the amount of scarring might help in deciding which patients need particular treatments, a new study suggests.
At issue is a kind of scarring, or fibrosis, known as midwall fibrosis. Reporting in the March 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that patients with enlarged hearts who had more of this type of damage were more than five times more likely to experience sudden cardiac death compared to patients without such scarring.
"Both the presence of fibrosis and the extent were independently and incrementally associated with all-cause mortality [death]," concluded a team led by Dr. Ankur Gulati of Royal Brompton Hospital, in London.
In the study, the researchers took high-tech MRI scans of the hearts of 472 patients with dilated cardiomyopathy, a form of weakened and enlarged heart that is often linked to heart failure. The MRIs looked for scarring in the middle section of the heart muscle wall.
Tracking the patients for an average of more than five years, the team reported that while about 11 percent of patients without midwall fibrosis had died, nearly 27 percent of those with such scarring had died.
According to Gulati's team, assessments of midwall scarring based on MRI imaging might be useful to doctors in pinpointing which patients with enlarged hearts are at highest risk for death, irregular heart rhythms and heart failure.
Experts in the United States agreed that gauging the extent of scarring on the heart provides useful information.
"The severity of the dysfunction can be linked to the extent with which healthy heart muscle is replaced by nonfunctioning scar tissue," explained Dr. Moshe Gunsburg, director of the cardiac arrhythmia service and co-chief of the division of cardiology at Brookdale University Hospita
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