Whole body MRI could predict heart attack risk in diabetics

Whole body MRI could help predict the risk of heart attack and stroke in diabetic patients, according to a study published online in the journal Radiology.

While patients with diabetes are susceptible to developing atherosclerosis at an accelerated rate (increasing the likelihood of suffering a major adverse cardiac and cerebrovascular event like a heart attack or stroke), the degree of risk among diabetic patients varies.

"One of the major advantages of whole-body MRI in this population is that the technique itself is not associated with radiation exposure, and larger body areas can be covered without increased risk, especially in younger patients," study co-author Fabian Bamberg of the department of radiology at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, said in an announcement. "As such, MRI can be used to evaluate the whole-body degree of disease burden that is not clinically apparent yet."

For the study, Bamberg and his colleagues studied the predictive value for the occurrence of major adverse cardiac and cerebrovascular events (MACCE) in 65 patients by first giving the patients contrast-enhanced full-body MRI, and then following up to assess the rate of MACCE in that study group.

They found that after a median period of 5.8 years, 14 patients had major adverse cardiac or cerebrovascular events. Patients with detectable vascular changes on whole-body MRI had a MACCE risk rate of 20 percent at three years, and 35 percent at six years, while no patient with a normal MRI had a major adverse cardiac or cerebrovascular event.

"Whole-body MRI may help in identifying patients who are at very high risk for future events and require intensified treatment or observation," Bamberg said. "Conversely, the absence of any changes on whole-body MRI may reassure diabetic patients that their risk for a heart attack, stroke or other major cardiac or cerebrovascular event is low."

Bamberg went on to say that while whole-body MRI is a recent development that needs more study, the current study "provides preliminary evidence that the technique may be beneficial for risk stratification in patients with diabetes. We anticipate that emerging study findings in different diabetic cohorts will provide additional scientific basis to establish whole-body MRI as a screening modality."

To learn more:
- see the study in Radiology
- read the announcement from the RSNA