Assessing Heart Disease Risk Is Within Arm’s Reach

April 13, 2017

Old Westbury, NY – Atherosclerosis, commonly known as hardening of the arteries, has long been seen as a strong indicator of coronary artery disease, as compared to the traditional risk factors of race, age, gender and metabolic profile. Unlike other diseases that affect many people, atherosclerosis currently has no simple way to diagnose or monitor response to treatment.

Now, a new study published in The Anatomical Record finds that peripheral arteries, easily accessible by ultrasound, may be useful for assessing a patient’s risk for ischemic cardiovascular disease, thus becoming an important diagnostic tool. While previous research had primarily used ultrasound, a research team at New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) Department of Anatomy performed a study using histopathology to more accurately grade atherosclerosis development; findings suggest the possibility of introducing a new way to measure systemic atherosclerosis: the radial artery.

Peripheral Arteries May Be Reliable Indicators of Coronary Vascular Disease,” is authored by Brian L. Beatty, Ph.D., and Bennett Futterman, M.D., both associate professors of Anatomy at NYITCOM, and Christopher Hoehmann, a third-year medical student there. In their research, the authors studied the arteries of 48 cadavers to determine risk factors for atherosclerosis, sampling 13 arterial segments from each of the donated cadavers, including segments of carotid, central and peripheral arteries.

“It is very gratifying to combine the work perspectives of an analytical anatomist with those of a physician and a medical student to leverage synergies and discover outcomes that can be applied in a clinical setting,” said Beatty.

Specifically, the researchers utilized histopathology to confirm as well as expand the search for correlations among arteries compared to other arteries that may associate with ischemic diseases. To investigate the distribution of atherosclerosis in various arteries throughout the body, they sampled segments from the carotid arteries and from peripheral vessels and compared them to clinically relevant central arteries of the torso.  

Importantly, the NYITCOM study demonstrates that the radial artery, a peripheral vessel, exhibited a positive correlation between both the pathologic left coronary and bifurcation of the carotid arteries. As such, they propose investigating the radial artery as a clinically accessible location to monitor with ultrasound when assessing a patient’s risk for ischemic cardiovascular disease. Further studies should be carried out evaluating the clinical utility of radial artery ultrasonography to assess cardiovascular risk.

The work described in The Anatomical Record paper was funded by New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Summer Research Program. Brian Beatty can be reached at bbeatty@nyit.edu; 516.686.7435.

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