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Heart Disease Health Center

Neck Artery Ultrasound IDs Heart Risk

Imaging of Carotid Artery May Help Reveal Risk for Heart Attack and Stroke
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Test Predicted Events continued...

When the ultrasound was performed, 149 study participants showed evidence of carotid artery plaque buildup, while the rest did not.

The subjects were followed for about 32 months following ultrasound testing. During this follow-up, the people who had the abnormal tests were nearly three times more likely than those without plaque buildup in the neck artery to develop severe coronary artery blockage.

Of the 10 people in the study who either died or suffered from heart attacks or strokes, nine had evidence of noncardiac atherosclerosis on the earlier ultrasound.

And 27 of the 36 participants, including the previously mentioned 10 people and others who underwent cardiovascular procedures such as heart bypass surgery or angioplasty -- or who were diagnosed with heart failureheart failure -- also showed evidence of plaque buildup in their neck's carotid arteries on the earlier ultrasound.

More Work Ahead

Akosah says the findings need to be confirmed in larger studies.

American Heart Association spokesman David Goff, MD, PhD, agrees. Even if the findings are confirmed, he says, it is not clear if screening whole populations would result in more aggressive treatment -- and better outcomes -- for those found to be at risk.

"There are still many things that we simply don't know that keep us from recommending this as routine screening," he tells WebMD.

Goff and Akosah agree that taking steps to reduce heart disease risk are far more important than which tests people take to ascertain their risk. That means maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise, not smoking, and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol under control.

"If people follow these guidelines, screening can confirm that their efforts are working," Akosah says.

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