MRI Spots Impending Stroke

Study finds scan helps detect dangerous plaque

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TUESDAY, June 10, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Two new studies say using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to evaluate bleeding within plaque-clogged arteries may help warn doctors when there's danger a person may suffer a heart attack or stroke.

The studies, which appear in the June 10 issue of Circulation, are the first human studies using MRIs to detect interplaque bleeding and identify dangerous plaque.

The early stages of plaque development in blood vessels causes minor narrowing of the blood vessels and there are usually no symptoms. But a plaque deposit becomes complicated when its surface cap ruptures, leading to bleeding inside the plaque deposit or clotting in the artery where the plaque has formed.

A person with complicated plaque has a greater risk of heart attack or stroke, regardless of how much plaque is in the artery.

In these two studies, Canadian and British researchers found MRIs detected high-risk complicated plaque in the neck arteries of 60 percent of people with signs or symptoms that often precede stroke. The researchers didn't find any complicated plaque in the neck arteries of healthy people in a control group.

"Detection of complicated plaque in people without symptoms may provide an opportunity to intervene. A number of drugs are now available that appear to stabilize plaque or reduce clot-related complications. If we can identify dangerous plaque, these drugs may be able to stabilize plaque before symptoms begin," lead author Alan R. Moody, radiologist in chief, Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Center, Toronto, says in a news release.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about coronary disease.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, June 9, 2003

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