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NASA Technology Helps Detect and Treat Heart Disease and Strokes

PASADENA, Calif., June 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NASA space technology is helping doctors diagnose and monitor treatments for hardening of the arteries in its early stages, before it causes heart attacks and strokes.

Hospitals and doctors around the country are using ArterioVision software initially developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., along with a standardized, painless, non-invasive ultrasound examination of the carotid artery, which carries blood from the heart to the brain.

A standard carotid ultrasound measures plaque and blood flow within the artery. When an ultrasound is used with the software, the test measures the thickness of the inner two layers of the carotid artery -- the intima and media. Medical Technologies International, Inc. (MTI) of Palm Desert, Calif., patented the ArterioVision software.

Arterial thickening provides the earliest evidence of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, the beginning stage of a disease process that leads to heart disease and stroke. Doctors can use this carotid intima media thickness (CIMT) measurement to calculate the age of the patient's arteries, which does not always match the patient's calendar age.

"You may look and feel one way on the outside, but your arteries actually could be much older than one realizes," said Dr. Howard N. Hodis of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. "Once patients see how thick their arteries are, there is much more incentive for them to change their lifestyle with dietary modification and exercise," he said. "Physicians also can use the test to monitor and change current medications."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the new diagnostic tool, called the ArterioVision CIMT procedure. Robert Selzer, MTI chief engineer, worked in JPL's Image Processing Laboratory for 15 years, where the technology was developed that
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