Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Repeat Ultrasounds Predict Heart Risk

In High-Risk Patients, Repeating the Test Helped ID Those Who Had Heart Attacks, Strokes

Repeat Ultrasounds to Predict Heart, Stroke Risk continued...

Then they focused on the 574 patients with clearly demonstrable plaque buildup in the carotid arteries.

Six to nine months later, these patients all had repeat ultrasounds to measure changes in their plaque.

Reiter's team used the ultrasound images and a computer-assisted evaluation (called gray-scale median or GSM) to evaluate the darkness of the plaque and its density. If plaque appears darker, it has a low GSM and is thought to be unstable, more likely to rupture or burst.

"Our study is the first using repeat GSM testing for the assessment of an individual's cardiovascular risk," Reiter says.

Next, the researchers looked at whether the GSM levels had decreased -- considered a bad sign, reflecting unstable plaque -- or increased (a neutral to good sign) and whether the patient had had a cardiovascular event during the follow-up, for a median of three years.

Over a follow-up of slightly more than three years, the GSM levels decreased in 230 patients, or 40%, and increased in 344, or 60%. Those in the lowest GSM group, with the darkest plaque, were about 1.7 times more likely to have a cardiovascular event than those whose GSM went up the most, reflecting less dense plaque, during the follow-up.

Those whose GSM declined the most had a 68% survival rate at three years, compared to a 78% survival for those whose GSM increased.

The study is published in the September issue of the journal Radiology.

Ultrasound Predicts Stroke, Heart Attack: Second Opinions

Evaluating plaque at a single time point "is not as predictive an outcome as following it over time," says Nick Bryan, MD, a professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and a spokesman for the American College of Radiology. That's a strength of the study, he says.

Another strength, he says: They used the ultrasound tests to predict cardiovascular events anywhere in the body, not just in the carotid artery.

So would a repeat ultrasound have helped Russert?

Too soon to say, Bryan says. "We don't know how well this [finding about repeat ultrasound] would apply to the general population," he says. In the study, the average age was 72. "This is not ready for clinical applications. It is a very interesting observation that will need a lot of follow-up."

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure