VIDEO: Ultrasound identifies dangerous plaque

New research in ultrasound out of Lund University in Sweden might be key to better, broader screening for cardiovascular risk.

A relatively simple mathematical calculation developed at Lund University can be used to interpret ultrasound signals and identify whether or not plaques consist of harmless connective tissue and smooth muscle cells or dangerous lipids and macrophages.

"We have shown that there is a strong correlation between changes in the center frequency and the size of the reflecting particles. The more harmful substances, the greater the so-called center frequency shift," says researcher Tobias Erlov in a Lund University press release.

The researchers suggest that the method can be used as an inexpensive and harmless way to screen a larger population and identify patients at risk of life-threatening acute cardiovascular disease at an earlier stage.

"Ultrasound is a very safe and very cheap technology, and if we can detect dangerous plaques using ultrasound, that gives us the possibility to screen a larger population," says Erlov in the illustrative video below.

Ultrasound could also be used to follow up after surgery where plaque was removed.

An exciting new application for echocardiography, this method could expand screening for atherosclerosis in population health frameworks, become routine for patients already at risk, such as patients with diabetes, and contribute to more accurate criteria for vascular surgery.

"In the future, ultrasound scans of the carotid artery will lead to the ability to perform surgery at an earlier stage in some cases, and the ability to avoid surgery completely in others," reads the press release.

More studies are necessary before the method can be integrated into ultrasound technology and disseminated, though a large 1,500 patient study is already underway.

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