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Researchers Link Coronary Artery Plaque to Liver Disease

Update Date: Nov 04, 2014 02:17 PM EST
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New research suggests that high-risk coronary artery plaque, which can lead to life-threatening ruptures, could be linked to a common liver disease known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD, which affects about 20 to 30 percent of the general population, is characterized by abnormal kidney function that is not caused by alcohol intake.

"As it is known that atherosclerosis is linked to inflammation, our next step was to look for an association of high-risk plaques with other systemic inflammatory conditions such as NAFLD," said the study's lead author, Stefan B. Puchner, M.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston as well as the Medical University of Vienna, Austria.

In this study, the researchers analyzed 445 patients taken from a large trial that involved emergency department patients suffering from acute chest pain. All of the patients had undergone non-enhanced computed tomography (CT), which looks for signs of atherosclerosis, and a contrast-enhanced coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA) that can be used to observe for evidence of high-risk plaque.

The team found that the scans of 185 of the patients, or 40.9 percent, had evidence of NAFLD. In 59.3 percent of the patients with NAFLD, the researchers also found signs of high-risk plaque. In patients without NAFLD, only 18 percent of them had high-risk plaque.

"The clinical implications could include a wider assessment of NAFLD using the non-contrast cardiac CT scans that are commonly performed prior to the CCTA. Further, the additional assessment of NAFLD with CT could improve the risk stratification of patients with suspected coronary artery disease, as our results show that the presence of NAFLD is associated with high-risk coronary plaque independent of traditional risk factors and severity of coronary artery disease," Dr. Puchner said according to the press release. "The aim will be to further investigate and understand, with the help of CCTA, the interplay between advanced atherosclerosis and NAFLD as part of a complex systemic inflammatory condition."

The study "High-Risk Coronary Plaque at Coronary CT Angiography Is Associated with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, Independent of Coronary Plaque and Stenosis Burden," was published in the journal, Radiology.

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