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Clinically Unrecognized Heart Attacks Common in the Elderly

Almost one fifth of 70-year-old patients show scars of previously unrecognized myocardial infarction

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Scarring detected by magnetic resonance imaging shows that unrecognized heart attacks are surprisingly common among the elderly, researchers report in the Aug. 15 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Charlotte Ebeling Barbier, M.D., of Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden, and colleagues used magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate the prevalence of myocardial infarctions in 248 men and women aged 70 years.

The researchers discovered scars caused by myocardial infarctions in 24.2 percent (60) of patients, 19.8 percent of them (49) due to unrecognized myocardial infarctions.

The area affected by the clinically unrecognized myocardial infarctions tended to be smaller than that involved in recognized cases. Patients with recognized and unrecognized myocardial infarction had more chest pain, lower ejection fraction and larger left ventricular mass than patients without infarction scarring.

"Unrecognized myocardial infarctions detected with magnetic resonance imaging was more frequent than expected in 70-year-old subjects," the authors write. "The subjects displaying these unrecognized myocardial infarctions may represent a previously unknown potential risk group for future cardiovascular events."

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