Scan gives heart attack alert

Edinburgh researchers have developed a scan which can identify people at high risk of a heart attack.

The new scan is able to detect fatty deposits in arteries which are in danger of bursting and causing a heart attack.

Light up

Dangerous deposits light up in scan images, quickly revealing if a patient is at risk.

In the UK, an estimated 200 people die from a heart attack every day.

Currently, there is no way of finding those people at greatest risk.

Early detection of deposits - or plaques - could mean doctors are able to use drugs or surgery to remove the fatty blockages, preventing the patient from suffering a heart attack.

Accuracy tested

Using a radioactive tracer and a PET scanner - which is commonly used in cancer diagnosis - scientists were able to pin-point the location of high-risk plaques within blood vessels.

The accuracy of the scan was tested by using it to look at the arteries of 40 people who had recently suffered a heart attack and 40 people with angina.

The scan was able to detect the plaque which caused the heart attack in more than 90 per cent of heart attack patients. It found similar fatty build-ups in almost half of the angina suffers.

Researchers say it is the first step towards the accurate prediction and prevention of heart attacks.

The study is published in The Lancet medical journal.

We have developed what we hope is a way to ‘light up’ plaques on the brink of rupturing and causing a heart attack. If we could know how close a person is to having a heart attack, we could step in with medication or surgery before the damage is done.

Dr Marc DweckBritish Heart Foundation Clinical Lecturer

Related Links

College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

British Heart Foundation