MRI May Spy Heart Risk in Diabetes Patients

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Diabetes patients may predict likelihood of heart attack and stroke with full body MRI

September 9, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

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(dailyRx News) For a person with diabetes, the risk of developing clogged arteries is high. An MRI can provide a noninvasive look inside the body that may help determine the chances of a heart attack or stroke in diabetes patients.

Diabetes is a known high-risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis, or clogged arteries. When the arteries become blocked with plaque (a buildup from fatty substances, cholesterol, and other products), individuals are more likely to have a major cardiac event.

Doctors use several methods to diagnose atherosclerosis, including a physical exam, blood tests, a chest x-ray and stress testing.

Recently, scientists found that scanning the body with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be a noninvasive way to assess the cardiovascular system to see if a diabetes patient is at risk of a heart attack or stroke.

"If you have diabetes, get regular cardiovascular checkups."

Fabian Bamberg, MD, from the Department of Radiology at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, and collaborators gave 65 patients with diabetes a full-body scan using MRI.

MRI is an imaging test that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create pictures of the body. It generally takes about 30 to 60 minutes for an MRI scan. Unlike an x-ray, this imaging method does not use radiation.

“One of the major advantages of whole-body MRI in this population is that the technique itself is not associated with radiation exposure,” said Dr. Bamberg in a press release.

After an average follow-up of almost six years, information was available on a total of 61 patients, 14 of whom had experienced major adverse cardiac and cerebrovascular events (MACCE), such as a heart attack or stroke.

The researchers noted those who had MRIs revealing “vascular changes” were more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. These patients had a 20 percent risk rate at three years and a 35 percent risk rate at six years, compared to those with normal MRIs, who had zero cardiac or cerebrovascular events.

Based on these results, Dr. Bamberg said, "Whole-body MRI may help in identifying patients who are at very high risk for future events and require intensified treatment or observation. Conversely, the absence of any changes on whole-body MRI may reassure diabetic patients that their risk for a heart attack, stroke or other major cardiac or cerebrovascular event is low."

While the preliminary results are promising, he says that MRI as a diagnostic tool for diabetes patients will require more study.

This study was published online September 10 in the journal Radiology.