Scientists have devised a way to scan for fatty deposits that cause heart attacks bringing accurate prediction of risk one step closer
The breakthrough allows doctors to identify "ticking time bomb" patients by detecting fatty deposits in arteries and administering drugs before an attack takes place.
It has been described by experts as a major step towards accurately predicting heart attacks and relies on technology used in cancer diagnosis which is already found in many hospitals.
The discovery was made in a study researching whether a PET-CT scanner could pick up the outlines of fatty "plaques" in arteries. The results are published in The Lancet today (Monday).
Scientists tested two groups of patients - 40 people who had just suffered heart attacks and 40 others who had angina - and found the scans picked up affected areas.
Problem points in blood vessels were highlighted on images of 90 per cent of those scanned who recently suffered a heart attack. Close to half of the scans of patients with angina also successfully detected the fatty build-ups.
The study, which was funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and Chief Scientist Office in Scotland, is significant because there is no current way to find those people at highest risk from heart attacks, which kill 200 people every day.
"We have developed what we hope is a way to 'light up' plaques on the brink of rupturing and causing a heart attack," explained Dr Marc Dweck, a BHF clinical lecturer and cardiologist who led the research at the University of Edinburgh.