Heart disease risk in asymptomatic patients can now be predicted by using a simple, non-invasive device called arterial tonometer developed by Mayo Clinic researchers. The device measures the arterial stiffness and the calcium content in the coronary artery that supplies the heart. The results of the study can be published in the Hypertension journal, published American Heart Association.
More than 40% of Americans are at moderate risk for developing heart disease. The new device has the potential to detect as much as 50% of heart attacks that occur without any warning. It can even be used as a screening strategy to identify at-risk individuals, in the opinion of Iftikhar Kullo, lead author of the study.
The test is based on determination of the velocity of travel of the pulse wave down the aorta (aortic pulse wave velocity or aPWV) that supplies blood to organs present in the body. The speed and accuracy of the test, non-invasive and painless nature of the investigation and the low cost are some advantages of the potential screening tool.
The patient is made to lie on a couch and a pencil like device is placed over the skin in the region of the carotid artery (neck) and the femoral artery (upper thigh). The tonometer device now measures the intra-arterial pressure and transmits it to a computer for aPWV calculation. A healthy, elastic artery has a slower pulse while a stiff, unhealthy artery has a faster wave.
The researchers subjected 401 participants to the analysis and found that the velocity of the wave was also related to calcium content in the coronary arteries, which is a reliable indicator of plaque build up (atherosclerosis). This is indeed a new finding that can be applied to patients with a family history of heart disease, or in patients with hypertension, and kidney disease.
An association between aPWV and smoking has also been established, that probably highlight the use of aPWV in cardiac screening. With such novel findings, it may now been possible to identify, if not prevent heart disease and institute appropriate treatment.