A simple new nuclear perfusion study of the heart when applied to healthy appearing diabetics (adult onset or “type 2 diabetics”) showed silent hardening of the coronary arteries in 21.6%. This large study of an American medical team was recently presented at the 18th Congress of the International Diabetes Federation in Paris/France. Dr. F. Wackers, professor of medicine from Yale University school of medicine and one of the lead investigators, explained that 1,124 patients with diabetes in the age range of 55 to 75 years who were all thought to not have any heart blood vessel disease, either had nuclear perfusion studies performed and a control group did not.
As indicated above to the surprise of the investigators 113 patients of 522 (=21.6%) had positive heart scans showing perfusion difficulties of the heart muscle. Further testing with other methods revealed that 73% indeed had perfusion defects and 27% had other heart disease, electrocardiogram abnormalities and other heart dysfunctions. Conventional assessment tools such as a smoking history, determination of degree of obesity, blood pressure,kidney disease , high blood lipid levels, high C-reactive protein levels, the diabetes test hemoglobin A1C or homocysteine levels in the blood were also assessed. However, these conventional tests did not help in predicting that these patients would have developed perfusion defects in their heart muscle. This was due to hidden narrowing of the heart blood vessels (=coronary arteries) and this affected the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the heart even though these patients were completely symptom free at the beginning of the trial.
Dr. Vivian Fonsega, a professor of medicine and pharmacology at Tulane University in New Orleans and co-researcher of the team, added that after a follow-up of 1 year those who had normal initial nuclear perfusion studies of the heart only 1% developed serious heart disease. These control patients who have now been followed for 3 years overall remained very healthy. In other words a normal (called “negative”) nuclear perfusion test in diabetics predicts a better longterm outcome than a positive perfusion test.
With this heart scan the cardiologist can identfy the high risk group among diabetics and can subsequently concetrate on doing something actively about the identified diseased heart blood vessel(=”coronary artery”) disease. Identified narrowing in the coronary arteries (“stenotic arterial lesions”) can be overcome by prying them open and placing heart stents across the affected section utilizing catheters (angiography). In other cases heart bypass surgery can be done by the heart surgeon to improve the perfusion of the heart muscle. The researchers stressed that those diabetics at risk can be identified with this test and the life expectancy of this high risk group of patients can be significantly prolonged. The study will continue for several more years so that the longterm results of any intervention can be measured when compared to controls.
Based on The Medical Post (Sept. 23, 2003 ): p. 55.
Last edited December 9, 2012