#53

Tracking Bad Plaque to Prevent Heart Attacks

A new imaging technique may help doctors find the source of a heart attack before it happens.

By Jeff Wheelwright|Tuesday, January 21, 2014
heart-attack-plaque
heart-attack-plaque
Ryan Madder/Spectrum Health

What if doctors could find the source of a heart attack before it happens? Up to 1 million heart attacks occur in the U.S. each year, and “not a single one can be predicted,” says cardiologist Ryan Madder at the Frederik Meijer Heart and Vascular Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Most serious heart attacks begin when a plaque — a lipid core packed with cholesterol — literally blows its top inside an artery. The resulting clot blocks the flow of blood. In July, Madder’s research team reported that a novel imaging technique — near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), which uses infrared radiation to peer inside arteries — identified the culprit plaques in 19 of 20 heart attack patients. 

Previously, such plaques came to light only during autopsies. But here, a catheter fitted with the NIRS system called out the culprit in real time, during treatment to put in a stent.

Now that he can detect them, Madder wants to search for potentially lethal plaques in people who have suffered one coronary and are at risk for another. Then he could intervene with stents or other measures before another attack.

[This article originally appeared in print as "Tracking Bad Plaque."] 

Comment on this article
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
DSC-JanFeb15
+

Log in to your account

X
Email address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it emailed to you.

Not registered yet?

Register now for FREE. It takes only a few seconds to complete. Register now »