Results of a new study by UBC researchers suggests heart rate is a predicator for the mechanical instability of rupture-prone plaque.
When plaques rupture, it increases the risk of heart attacks due to blood clots that form over the rupture area. Blocked arteries caused by plaque build-up and blood clots are a leading cause of death in North America.
Heart attacks are one of the most-deadly forms of cardiovascular disease in the World. According to 2016 statistics from the World Health Organization, heart attacks and strokes made up 85% of death related to cardiovascular disease.
Hadi Mohammadi , an assistant professor at the School of Engineering and his team at the Heart Valve Performance Lab, have developed a novel approach to identifying unstable plaque in the heart. While previous research focused computation studies on the geometric properties of plaque to gauge stability. This new research added the variable of heart rate to the equation.
“Plaque rupture is a mechanical failure occurring when stress is exerted in the plaque and exceeds its structure capacity” explains Mohammadi. “Therefore, techniques that measure the stress distribution in plaque provide vital information to researchers seeking to reduce the risk of acute myocardial infarction (heart attacks).”
The detection of vulnerable plaques prior to rupture may reduce the incidence of heart attacks. Such weakened plaques are located at multiple sites in the coronary tree, and therefore accurately identifying those at highest risk of rupture is an essential first step to protecting patients.
The Heart Valve Performance Lab was recently in the news for creating a nanocomposite biomaterial heart-valve developed to reduce or eliminate complications related to heart transplants.
Their latest findings may lead to mechanical biomaterial devices that strengthen or protect weaken plaque.
According to Mohammadi, these results open a new category in the field. “Much more work is needed in the area of assessing viscoelasticity, or malleability, of plaque composition and we are thrilled to be on the leading edge of this research.”
The research was published in the journal Cardiovascular Engineering and Technology.