Diagnosing Heart Attacks with an X-ray

FRESNO, Calif.

"I experienced some chest pains, and they wouldn't go away. They took those sticky things and hooked up wires to me, and then they put me on the treadmill," Chris Paradowski told Action News. "I thought is this happening? I'm not that old, you know."

Chris Paradowski knows now what he thought was a heart attack was really just a false alarm, but it took several hours in the ER to find out.

"I thought, too bad there's not an easier way," Chris said.

Cardiologist doctor Greg Lanza agrees.

"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," Gregory Lanza, M.D, Ph.D, a cardiologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, explained.

Lanza's team at Washington University 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," Dr. Lanza said.

The 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.

"That's the basis of a heart attack. That's what these particles will see," Dr. Lanza said.

It could be the diagnostic imaging tool of the future, separating false alarms like Chris's from the real thing when every second counts. This heart attack test is still experimental. The research phase of the project is continuing with clinical trials still a few years down the road. This same spectral CT technology is also being tested to provide an early warning for stroke.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Judy Martin
Associate Director Media Relations
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
(314) 286-0105

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