Understanding the forces that produce blood clots may be the key to stepping up heart attack prevention methods, scientists from the University Hospital of the RWTH Aachen in Germany claim.
Their proof-of-concept study was recently published. It relies on patient-specific computer models to analyze the forces that provoke coronary plaque ruptures.
The word “plaque” refers to a deposit of fat that can clog the heart’s arteries when it breaks away from the artery wall, ultimately resulting in a heart attack.
Figuring out when and where a plague could rupture, according to the stresses exerted upon it, may help physicians provide life-saving preventive measures.
Mathias Burgmaier, the study’s author, stated:
“Including such analyses in clinical practice might allow cardiologists to predict a future myocardial infarction [heart attack] by looking – among other factors – at the stress distributions in diseased vessels.”
Coronary plaques are formed from a layer of fibrous connective tissue (also called a fibrous cap) covering a lipid-rich necrotic core.
Scientists are aware that the cap fails when it gets subjected to forces greater than its tensile strength.
However, the disruptive forces that provoke the mechanical stress are not well comprehended at the moment.
Andrea Milzi, the study’s co-first author, believes that may limit their ability to identify and treat high-risk lipid deposits before they can provoke a myocardial infarction.
During the study, the researchers merged high-resolution optical coherence tomography imaging with finite element analysis to represent how stress gets distributed among the artery wall.
Researchers analyzed the maximal stress in the fibrous cap and the plaque as an integer in patients with coronary plaques.
They found out that the stress increased by nearly 400% in ruptured plaques compared to regular, stable ones.
“Our pilot study shows that OCT-based analysis of the forces within the vessel wall is a feasible tool to carry out patient-specific assessment of biomechanics in coronary lesions,” said Burgmaier.