Artery Temperatures Identify Hot Spots On Plaque That May Rupture And Trigger Heart Attack

DALLAS, April 20 -- Thermography, which measures the temperature of the blood vessels, may hold potential as a new tool to identify individuals at risk for an impending heart attack, according to a report in today's Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

In the study, scientists measured the temperature at selected sites on the interior lining of the coronary arteries of 90 people. They used a tiny thermometer attached to the tip of a catheter. Temperature variations were not detected in people free of atherosclerosis, the fat-laden plaque obstructions in the arteries.

Other researchers had previously found temperature elevations in tissue from carotid arteries, which carry blood to the brain, says Christodoulos Stefanadis, M.D., lead author of the study.

"This is the first time, however, that temperature has been measured in the heart or coronary arteries of living humans," says Stefanadis, associate professor of cardiology at the University of Athens and director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory and coronary care unit at Hippokration Hospital in Athens.

Heart attacks most frequently occur when a fat-laden deposit, known as a plaque, ruptures and triggers the formation of blood clots that block the flow of blood to the heart. Similarly, plaque ruptures in the artery that carries blood to the brain can cause strokes.

Because temperature was measured before the heart attacks occurred, the study suggests that increased temperature may precede the rupture.

According to Valentin Fuster, M.D., Ph.D., president of the American Heart Association, "Techniques such as thermography that can identify the vulnerable plaque -- one that may rupture and cause a heart attack -- may be used in the future as a way to help physicians predict which individuals are most likely to have a heart attack. The technology fits into a growing number of methods -- invasive and noninvasive -- being developed that are based on the new kn

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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