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New technology may diagnose heart attacks faster

September 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
When a person suffers a heart attack, the lining of their coronary artery ruptures, and a clot forms to repair it. With conventional CT scans, it's hard to see this, but new technology is helping doctors get a faster and more accurate diagnosis.

Chris Paradowski thought he was having a heart attack, but he knows now that it was just a false alarm. But it took several hours in the emergency room to find out.

"The primary problem that we wanted to address was the Issue of patients coming into the emergency room with chest pain who have to go through significant testing only to find out they never really had coronary disease," said Dr. Gregory Lanza.

Lanza's team at Washington University in St. Louis is working on a rapid test to get heart attack patients fast treatment - and people without heart disease home fast. The test takes minutes instead of hours.

"What we specifically do is we identify the signature of a heart attack, and that's clot," Lanza said.

Tthe patient would be injected with a solution containing millions of tiny nanoparticles designed to bind to proteins that form blood clots in the coronary artery.

In experimental models, spectral CT scan imaging works like X-ray vision to detect the particles and light up the clot.

It could be the diagnostic imaging tool of the future, separating false alarms from the real thing when every second counts.


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