The power to predict a heart attack may be right at your fingertips

April 1, 2009 by  

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handCould it be that predicting a cardiac event is as easy as raising a finger? Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have studied and seemed be quite satisfied with a test that is simple and noninvasive but is still “highly predictive” of a major cardiac event, such as a heart attack or stroke, for people who are considered at low or moderate risk.

The EndoPAT I a noninvasive finger sensor test device which measures the health status of endothelial cells that line the walls of the blood vessels and regulate blood flow. When endothelial cells are unhealthy, a condition called endothelial dysfunction occurs and can mark the start of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, which in turn lead to cardiovascular disorders. The finger device measures blood flow which is indicative of endothelial function.

During the testing process

“…researchers at Mayo Clinic and Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston used the device to test 270 patients between the ages of 42 and 66 and followed their progress from August 1999 to August 2007. These patients already knew that they had low-to-medium risk of experiencing a major heart event, based on their Framingham Risk Score. The score is the commonly used risk predictor and was developed from the Framingham Heart Study, a longitudinal study of heart disease.”

The study results showed that 49% of patients who had poor endothelial function as measured by EndoPAT had a major cardiovascular event (e.g. heart attack or stroke) during the 7-year follow up.

The EndoPAT is a product of Itamar Medical. I was approved by the US FDA for diagnostic use in 2003. It consists of a digital recording equipment plus two probes attached to the fingers like large thimbles. During the test, one probe is placed on each index finger and attached to a small blood-flow measuring machine. In parallel, a cuff, the kind that is used during blood pressure reading is placed around one arm. The cuff is inflated, then deflated “to occlude and then release blood flow to assess reactive hyperemia (RH), the normal blood flow response that occurs when occlusion is released.” Three timed readings are performed during the 15-minute test and the results are expressed in RH scores. A low RH score indicates low blood flow response, endothelial dysfunction and impaired vascular health.

This positive news about EndoPA is very welcome because cardiovascular health problems, most of which are preventable, have become a major global health concern. Millions of people suffer from heart attack and stroke each year, sometimes without any warning. Indeed, a predictive but still non-invasive instrument such as EndoPAT can help doctors and patients plan a preventive strategy to battle heart and stroke.

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One Response to “The power to predict a heart attack may be right at your fingertips”
  1. Caroline ure says:

    Good news on teh EndoPat. But will insurance cover it and can it be done in the doctor’s office.

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