Understanding and Predicting the Risk of Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death and illness worldwide, accounting for one of every three deaths. Each year, some 80,000 Canadians experience a first heart attack, or myocardial infarction. Half experience no warning signs or symptoms, and more than a third die before reaching medical care.
There are proven clinical tools that can predict the risk of future heart attack on a population level, but they are not as effective on an individual level, often misclassifying patients. Dr. Jonathon Leipsic, Canada Research Chair in Advanced Cardiopulmonary Imaging, hopes to improve this situation. Through large-scale international collaborations, he and his research team are studying the mechanisms of acute myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death while examining heart and lung interactions that may influence patients’ outcomes.
Leipsic’s team is evaluating very large, non-invasive imaging data sets to better understand their ability to predict coronary plaque characteristics. (Plaque accumulates in arteries and can clog them, leading to heart disease.) His team will also investigate gender-specific differences in these plaques before the onset of heart attacks to develop a model that can predict the risk of heart attack for both men and women.
Ultimately, this work—along with Leipsic’s other major focus on structural heart disease—will play a major role in helping us understand coronary artery disease risk. It will also significantly improve physicians’ ability to perform minimally invasive heart disease therapies guided by innovative imaging technology.