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Doctors are developing a test that could save many people's lives in the future
Strokes are a dangerous condition that mostly affects older people. Researchers have now found that a newly developed non-invasive test can determine whether people have an increased risk of developing a stroke.
The researchers at the internationally recognized University of Oxford found that a novel MRI scan can be used to predict an increased likelihood of stroke. The doctors released a press release on the results of their study.
Test measures cholesterol in plaques for risk assessment
The new test can be used to predict whether plaques (deposits) in the so-called carotid arteries contain a lot of cholesterol and therefore there is an increased likelihood that those affected will develop a stroke, the experts explain.
What do the high cholesterol plaques do?
The carotid arteries deliver blood to the brain. High cholesterol plaques can cause dangerous blood clots to form. This can block the supply of blood to the brain and result in a life-threatening stroke. In the UK alone, a quarter of 100,000 strokes a year are caused by plaques in the carotid arteries, the scientists explain.
The test could lead to faster and more effective treatment
When people with a so-called small stroke are hospitalized, doctors need to be able to assess whether these people are at risk of another stroke, explains the author Dr. Luca Biasiolli. The ability of the new non-invasive test to quantify cholesterol in carotid plaques could help doctors in the future to identify patients at higher risk of stroke and make informed decisions about further treatment.
So far, the risk of small but fatty plaques has often been underestimated
At present, medical professionals deal with plaques in the carotid artery by measuring the size of the plaques found and then assessing the risk of stroke. If plaques found are too large, they are removed or dissolved. However, especially fatty plaques do not have to be unusually large in order to increase the risk of a stroke, say the experts. Therefore, the danger they pose could be underestimated by medical professionals.
The more cholesterol in the plaques, the higher the risk of stroke
In the study, the researchers used the newly developed MRI scan to determine the amount of cholesterol in the carotid plaques in 26 subjects. During surgery, these plaques were surgically removed and the cholesterol level in the plaque was measured, the doctors explain. The scientists found that the new technology worked very precisely. The more cholesterol the plaques contained, the higher the risk of stroke, the experts add. A further study on over 50 participants confirmed the results.
More research is needed
The new test will make it easier for medical professionals to identify people with fatty carotid plaques in the future who are at increased risk of stroke. The affected patients can then be treated early, for example, by a surgical procedure to remove the dangerous plaques, the researchers explain. The new test could completely save other patients from surgery if the test does not identify an increased risk. More research is now needed before the new test can be used in clinical practice. (as)