New method may predict heart attacks by finding vulnerable plaques

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Researchers from the Department of Radiology at Jinling Hospital, Medical School of Nanjing University in Nanjing, China, have employed a technique known as radiomics to predict potential cardiac events, such as heart attacks.

This novel approach extracts quantifiable data from coronary CT angiography images to assess the vulnerability of plaques associated with coronary artery disease.

Radiomics and Vulnerable Plaques

Large, lipid-rich plaques, which are susceptible to rupture, contribute to the majority of heart attacks. Predicting which of these plaques will rupture presents a challenge.

Radiomics, however, might offer a solution. By using this approach, researchers can gain insights into disease characteristics that aren’t evident in the CT images alone.

Results of the Study

The Chinese research team developed a radiomics model using data from 299 patients and then tested it in a larger cohort of 708 individuals with suspected coronary artery disease.

The model successfully identified vulnerable plaques associated with an increased risk of major adverse cardiac events over a median three-year follow-up period.

Co-lead author Dr. Long Jiang Zhang noted that the results of the study are promising, with radiomics providing a more accurate method for detecting vulnerable plaques compared to conventional coronary CT angiography anatomical parameters.

Future Clinical Applications and Research

The application of the radiomics signature could potentially be easily incorporated into clinical practice to assess plaque vulnerability and stratify high-risk patients.

The research team plans to create a radiomics model that can be used with various scanner types and manufacturers. They are also preparing for a larger, multicenter study involving 10,000 patients.

Dr. Zhang believes that with the backing of large observational studies and randomized controlled trials, radiomics could influence clinical decision-making and enhance patient care in the future.

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The study was published in Radiology.

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