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MRI Identifies High-Risk Atherosclerotic Plaque Hidden In The Vessel Wall Non-Invasively, Research

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Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found that using MRI in an animal model canBUSM identify dangerous plaques in a non-invasive way. This research was supported by grant funding from the National Institutes of Health. Their findings appeared in the May issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, and this findings offer possible applications in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with atherosclerosis.

Rupture of vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque, causes deaths and disabilities for a significant number of people worldwide, and it often occurs without prior symptoms. Identification of atherosclerotic plaques with a high risk for disruption and thrombosis would allow preventive therapy to be initiated before thrombi begin to clog arteries and cause stroke or heart attack.

Researchers examined diagnostic protocols of human disease in a rabbit. They stimulated Plaque disruption at a precise time to allow MRI imaging before and after the rupture. It was found that plaques which were hidden within the vessel wall and pushing the vessel wall outward instead of occluding the lumen had a very high chance of forming a thrombus, while plaques that caused vessel narrowing were almost always stable. That gives a great explanation of why the most dangerous plaques generally escape detection by x-ray angiography. James A. Hamilton, PhD, a professor of biophysics and physiology at BUSM and lead author of the study, said "The MRI exams reported are promising for application to human disease because they are noninvasive, use a clinically approved contrast agent and are performed using a clinical MRI scanner," Hamilton added "The findings suggest that MRI may be used as a noninvasive modality for localization of plaques that are prone to disruption."

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