Molecular imaging technique detects ischemic heart disease in diabetics

Research involving dual single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), a molecular imaging technique, may lead to much-needed cardiovascular disease screening for diabetic patients at risk of ischemic heart disease, a disorder marked by significantly reduced blood flow in the heart.

Research involving dual single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), a molecular imaging technique, may lead to much-needed cardiovascular disease screening for diabetic patients at risk of ischemic heart disease, a disorder marked by significantly reduced blood flow in the heart. Ischemia of the myocardium, or cardiac muscle, can signal diminished oxygenation of the heart tissue and trigger a heart attack if left untreated. The researchers from Tokyo Women's Medical University (Tokyo, Japan) introduced their findings at the Society of Nuclear Medicine (SNM)'s 58th Annual Meeting, held June 4–8 in San Antonio, TX.

"Diabetes is a serious risk factor for ischemic heart disease," says Kenji Fukushima, MD, Ph.D., of Tokyo Women's Medical University. "Most diabetic patients do not exhibit signs of myocardial ischemia and may be on course toward major cardiac events without any red alert. Molecular imaging could potentially provide an effective screening tool for at-risk diabetic patients suspected of having ischemic heart disease."

The study explores a method of molecular imaging called myocardial fatty acid metabolism imaging, which may prove to be a safer alternative for patients suspected of having ischemic heart disease. During the study, a total of 191 diabetic patients were injected with I-123 beta-methyl iodophenyl pentadecanoic acid (BMIPP), a medical isotope bound with an agent that is metabolized by the heart in order to image the fatty acid uptake of heart muscle cells. Once injected, patients were imaged using dual single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), a molecular imaging technology that captures both physiological and anatomical information about the body. The objective of the study was to test the predictive value of this imaging procedure for major cardiac events like fatal heart attack and minor cardiac events such as hospitalization due to heart failure. Follow-up of the study revealed 13 major and 25 minor events, proving that I-123 BMIPP is safe and beneficial for predicting the likelihood of cardiac events in diabetic patients suspected of having myocardial ischemia.

If the research moves into clinical use, imaging both cell metabolism and blood flow through the heart could help physicians detect myocardial ischemia and make clinical decisions that could save lives.

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Posted by Lee Mather

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