Research from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in the US has revealed that a combination of imaging technologies could aid in the accurate prediction of patients at risk of a heart attack.
The team used positron emission tomography (PET) and computed tomography (CT) to measure calcium levels in coronary arteries during stress testing of patients, as such calcification is known to be a characteristic of coronary artery disease and could lead adverse cardiovascular events.
From the total 8,000 patients tested, 53.2% did not have calcium in the coronary arteries compared to 46.8% of those with coronary artery calcification.
The study included people who did not have any history of coronary artery disease, heart attack or known restricted blood flow to the heart, but were treated with symptoms of a suspected heart condition.
Within 60 days, 6% of patients without calcium in coronary arteries had to undergo coronary angiography compared to 10.8% who had calcium.
Revascularisation to restore blood flow to the heart was needed by 8% of patients with no calcium compared with 6.5% who had calcium, while 9% without calcium had a major adverse coronary artery event compared to 6% with calcium.
Furthermore, 4% of patients with no calcium died compared to 4.2% of patients with calcium.
Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute cardiovascular researcher Viet Le said: “Conducting a PET/CT test to measure coronary artery calcium means clinicians can tell the difference between the potential risk of heart disease and actually having disease.
“High blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and smoking are all risks of heart disease, yet many people who have those risks never have the disease or suffer an event. Coronary artery calcium is the disease, and to an extent, it shows just how much of the disease is present.”