The researchers said that their technique can identify dangerous plaques present in the arteries that supply blood to the heart and which can lead to heart attacks if they rupture and block the arteries.
The technique makes use of a radioactive tracer to 'light up' active and dangerous plaques and on combining it with high resolution images of the heart and blood vessels, a detailed picture of the heart with the danger zones clearly highlighted emerges. The technique is already used in detecting tumors in cancer patients. The study has been published in the journal The Lancet.
"Heart attacks are the biggest killer in the Western world and there is no prior warning, the first time people know about heart disease is when they have a heart attack. If we can treat and stabilize the plaques then we might be able to prevent heart attacks and stop people dying. I suspect not all plaques detected will cause a heart attack, but it could be useful for identifying high risk patients who need aggressive therapy", lead researcher Dr Marc Dweck said.