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Arterial Tonometer - Painless Quick Test for Heart Disease

February 21st, 2006

Arterial Tonometer is Noninvasive way to Test for Heart Disease

artery plaque

A group of researchers from the Mayo Clinic used an arterial tonometer to help diagnose patients for hardened arteries and coronary artery calcium who have no outward symptoms of heart disease.  The results were first reported in the current issue of Hypertension, published by the American Heart Association.

Iftikhar Kullo, M.D., of Mayo Clinic, the lead author of the study said, "About 40 percent of the American public is considered to be at moderate risk for heart disease.  Nearly half the heart attacks come without warning, which means we need to do a better job of screening people. This test has that potential."


The equipment is used to measure the pulse wave velocity (aPWV).  By measuring how fast a pulse wave travels down the aorta in a personís heart, it can help pinpoint if there is a problem with the arteries.  The test is painless and could become a standard screening for heart disease in the future.  It only takes about 10 -15 minutes using a tonometer it measures an aPWV between the neck carotid arteries to the upper thigh femoral artery.  The data is collected and analyzed in a computer.  Patients who have slower aPWV readings are healthier because their arteries are more elastic.  The faster the aPWV the harder the arteries and the more at risk a patient is for developing heart disease.

The research study took place between 2002 and 2004.  There were 401 people from ages 32 through 84 that did not have any history of heart attack or stroke.  Of the 401 people, 213 were men and 188 were women and the group had a median age of 60 years.  The researchers were able to measure if the participants had hardened arteries and the presence and amount of calcium in the arteries.  They also found that the people who had a history of smoking also had a higher incidence and amount of calcium in the arteries compared to the non-smokers.


The study also found that those that had stiffer arteries also had more calcium in the coronary arteries.  Calcium in the arteries promotes plaque buildup.  Kullo says that the relationship of aPWV and artery calcium has been unknown in previous studies.  The researchers believe this test could be helpful for those who have heart disease in the family, high blood pressure, or kidney disease.

This technology will hopefully become main stream as a method to test for hardened arteries.  It can warn a person of potential health problems.  The bad news is it does not fix the problem.  You can get medications to help slow down the hardening of arteries which should slow down the progression of heart disease.


It is a reminder that we should always try to do healthy choices everyday.  Eating right, exercise, donít over consume alcoholic beverages, and donít smoke all are still good ideas.  The American Heart Association has an excellent website to help anyone get started on a heart healthy lifestyle.

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Nicole Wilson
Best Syndication

Books on Heart Disease

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