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Scan correlates susceptible heart plaque

According to a recent study, a combined scan identifies unstable areas of plaque in coronary arteries that may signify danger of heart attack in the future. Fatty deposits, known as plaque, set the scene for heart disease. The build up of plaque - atherosclerosis - begins many years before any symptoms occur.// The plaque narrows the arteries, and may eventually crack, instigating formation of a clot which will then cause a heart attack.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical School now report that positron emission tomography (PET), in association with computed tomography (CT), makes a powerful imaging technique for monitoring the state of atherosclerotic plaque. Functioning with a group of 40 patients, they saw several 'hot spots' - areas of plaque which took up more of a radiochemical called FDG. This is normally used to locate active areas of tumour tissue - but its use in imaging plaque is quite new.

Researchers, felt that these 'hot spots' were distinct from areas of calcification - where the plaque is hardened. It may be that these 'hot spots' represent unstable areas which may, in future, crack and trigger a heart attack. It is too early to know for sure, but FDG imaging could help doctors proactively intervene with patients who have atherosclerotic 'hot spots' in their coronary arteries.

It was interesting, say the researchers, that these 'hot spots' were distinct from areas of calcification - where the plaque is hardened. It may be that these 'hot spots' represent unstable areas which may, in future, crack and trigger a heart attack. It is too early to know for sure, but FDG imaging could help physicians proactively intervene with patients who have atherosclerotic 'hot spots' in their coronary arteries.


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