More bad news for cocaine users: Drug can triple risk of aneurysm

ATLANTA, Nov. 9 -- The bad news continues to mount for cocaine users. Cocaine has already been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. New research being presented today at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions finds, for the first time, that cocaine use can lead to the development of aneurysms in heart arteries.

An aneurysm is a ballooning-out of the wall of an artery. An aneurysm in a heart artery may lead to a heart attack. An aneurysm in an artery of the brain could burst and trigger a stroke. Some aneurysms do not cause symptoms, while others may cause chest pain and other coronary artery disease symptoms.

"After observing severe coronary artery aneurysms in a large number of young cocaine users, we wanted to determine if the drug was the cause of these aneurysms," says Aaron Satran, M.D, chief medical resident at Hennepin County Medical Center. "Our findings strongly indicate that cocaine use is associated with an increased risk of aneurysms, and that the more cocaine consumed, the higher an individual's risk of developing an aneurysm."

Researchers at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis looked at 112 individuals who admitted using cocaine. All had a history of chest pains and other cardiovascular health problems, and all underwent an imaging test called angiography, in which dye is injected into the arteries and an x-ray is then taken. The average age of those in the study was 44, and 80 percent were male.

"We found that 30 percent of these patientsm--three out of 10--had aneurysms in a heart artery. This is an extremely high percentage compared to the overall number of coronary artery aneurysms seen among patients referred for angiography," Satran says.

For example, a large-scale trial known as CASS (Coronary Artery Surgery Study) found that fewer than 5 percent of the 20,000 patients referred for angiography had an aneurysm in a heart artery. The percentage of patients in the Minn

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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