Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center suggested in recent research findings that the cardiovascular risk of ischemic heart diseases can be predicted by the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of aortic atherosclerosis. This is the first ever study that has provided a predictive value of the aortic atherosclerosis in determining the risk of adverse cardiac events on the basis of MRI findings. The results of this large scale study have been published in the scientific journal Radiology, June issue.
Researchers at UT Southwestern employed MRI technology to detect subtle but clinically significant differences in the determinants of aortic atherosclerosis, such as the build-up and thickness of atherosclerotic plaque. Senior author of the paper and assistant professor of Internal Medicine, Dr. Amit Khera, suggested that the individuals who have thick aortic walls are twice as likely to develop an adverse future event. He suggested:
“Both measurements are predictors of cardiovascular events, but there’s an important difference between accumulation of plaque and the thickness of the aortic walls. Accumulation of plaque tells us there is increased risk for peripheral vascular occlusion, stroke, and abdominal aortic aneurysms, but not all forms of cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and death from cardiovascular disease. In contrast, thickening of the aortic walls is more likely to be predictive of all forms of cardiovascular disease.”
Dr. Christopher Maroules, Resident of Diagnostic Radiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center and an author of study, suggested that the relationship of atherosclerosis involving coronary blood vessels and occurrence of an adverse cardiac event has been studied and proved; however, little is known about the association of cardiac events with aortic atherosclerosis. He also suggested that the size of aortic vessels also determines the ease of MRI procedures to predict cardiac risk.
See the video below for an overview of atherosclerosis:
Dr. Maroules commented:
“The aorta is the largest artery of the body and is in a relatively fixed position, making this vessel an ideal target to interrogate with MRI. Coronary arteries, in contrast, are a fraction of the size of the aorta and undergo constant respiratory and cardiac motion, making them more challenging to image. Radiologists may be able to infer prognostic information from these routine exams that could benefit patients by identifying subclinical heart disease.”
Over 2200 healthy adults underwent abdominal MRI for this study. All the participants were recruited from Dallas Heart Study. Dr. Khera suggested that the findings are mainly novel and relevant, but does not suggest that healthcare providers should use MRI findings of MRI to ascertain cardiac risk in patients. He said:
“While we are not ready to recommend MRI screening for atherosclerosis yet, in patients currently undergoing these exams, findings of a thicker aorta or plaque in the aorta could provide important information.”
Other notable researchers who contributed in the study include assistant dean and professor of radiology and internal medicine, Dr. Ronald Peshock; assistant professor of anesthesiology and pain management, Dr. Eric Rosero; and faculty associate in the department of clinical science, Colby Ayers.