Researchers Observe Asymptomatic Carotid Plaque Healing Mechanisms

Sep 03, 2008

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have observed by non-invasive MR imaging (MRI), a healing mechanism for plaque rupture, a potentially life-threatening event in the cardiovascular system that can result in a fatal heart attack or debilitating stroke. The untimely death of well-known television journalist Tim Russert was due to the sudden rupture of a vulnerable plaque in a critical location in a coronary artery. This study, which was published in the September 2 issue of Circulation, shows that not all plaque ruptures are symptomatic.

Atherosclerotic plaque often develops at branch points or curving portions along extracranial and intracranial arteries where blood flow is slowed and more turbulent. This is common in carotid arteries, arteries that supply the head and neck with oxygenated blood.

Researchers at BUSM report that a patient with severe blockages in both the left and right carotid arteries was examined prior to operations (endarterectomy) conducted two months apart to remove the plaques. Sometime after removal of the left carotid plaque, the patient experienced plaque rupture in the right carotid artery without stroke and even without showing any neurological symptoms. This was observed in a second MR image obtained prior to endarterectomy.

“This illustrates the healing of silent atherosclerotic ulceration, which is a specific type of rupture detected by MRIs over a period of two months,” explains project leader, James Hamilton, Ph.D., professor of biophysics and physiology at BUSM. “This has not been reported previously. In the past there had been evidence of plaques removed from the carotid and human coronary artery through postmortem specimens that small plaque ruptures may occur without notice.”

Hamilton and his collaborator Alik Farber, M.D., an associate professor of surgery at BUSM and chief of vascular and endovascular surgery at Boston Medical Center, pointed out that these hemorrhages "disappear" into the plaques but make the plaque more vulnerable to future rupture.

Source: Boston University

Explore further: US scientists make embryonic stem cells from adult skin

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

21 hours ago

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...