Keeping you up to date on recent headlines in cardiovascular healthcare:

Study examines PFO closure when found incidentally ... Patients who have a heart defect known as patent foramen ovale (PFO) incidentally discovered and repaired during surgery for a different condition may have an increased risk of postoperative stroke, along with no clear benefit on short-term outcomes or long-term survival, according to a study in the July 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). According to the study, the role that PFO plays in cryptogenic (of unknown cause) stroke remains controversia. Richard Krasuski, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic, and colleagues examined the prevalence of PFO incidentally discovered during cardiothoracic surgery and investigated the relationship of repair on outcomes and long-term survival. The researchers reviewed the intraoperative transesophageal (through the esophagus) echocardiograms of 13,092 patients without prior diagnosis of PFO or atrial septal defect (an abnormal opening between the left and right atria of the heart) undergoing surgery at the Cleveland Clinic from 1995 through 2006. Postoperative outcomes were collected until discharge.

UCLA method treats high-risk aortic aneurysm patients ... Patrick Lane was plagued by recurring aortic aneurysms ten years ago that threatened his life. His doctor at the time suggested he contact a leading vascular surgeon at University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) who was pioneering a new treatment technique for high-risk patients who couldn't receive traditional surgery. According to the UCLA, Lane, who was the first patient at UCLA to receive the new method in 1998, is still doing well today. William Quinones-Baldrich, MD, performed Lane's procedure, a hybrid method called CESA (combined endovascular and surgical approach). Since 1998, the CESA procedure has been performed on 31 UCLA patients, and in a recent issue of the Journal of Vascular Surgery, Quinones-Baldrich and his colleagues reported excellent results in the first 20 high-risk patients with complex aortic pathology treated with CESA. According to the researchers, the technique has been gaining popularity at centers throughout the world for high-risk cases.

Simple test may ID people at risk of SCD ... A large and long term study of Frenchmen suggests there may be a simple way to establish if apparently healthy people have an elevated risk of sudden cardiac death by looking at how their heart responds under conditions of mild mental stress and during peak exercise. The study was the work of Xavier Jouven, MD, a cardiologist at the European Georges Pompidou Hospital (Paris), and colleagues, and is published in the July 2 advance access issue of the European Heart Journal. According to the authors, the most common cause in adults is when fast heart rhythm (ventricular tachycardia) or erratic or uncoordinated contraction of muscle in a heart chamber (ventricular fibrillation) coincides with a loss of blood flow in the heart (ischaemic cardiac event).
Data taken on the participants over a follow up period of 23 years allowed the researchers to compare heart rate changes between rest and mild mental stress (while the participants prepared for an exercise test) between those who experienced sudden cardiac death (81 participants), those who died from a non-sudden coronary event (129 participants), and those who died from any cause (1,306 participants).

Lower IQ may indicate heart disease risk ... A new study looking at the difference in cardiovascular disease and life expectancy between people of high and low socio-economic status has found that a person's IQ may have a role to play. Authors of the study published in the European Heart Journal on Wednesday analyzed data from a group of 4,289 former U.S. soldiers. They found that IQ explained more than 20% of the difference in mortality between people from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds compared to those from more advantaged backgrounds. This was in addition to the classical, known risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking and obesity, the authors note.

Poor people in Scotland more likely to die from heart disease ... In Scotland, men and women between the ages of 35 and 44 from socially deprived groups are around six times more likely to die from heart disease than the most affluent individuals in the same age range, according to research published on bmj.com. The results reveal that this disparity diminishes with age but only disappears for people who are 85 or over. The number of people dying from heart disease in Scotland has halved in the last two decades but the country still has some of the highest deaths in Europe and globally, according to the study. The researchers argue that the slow down is not due to poor treatment provision but is linked to unhealthy social environments and high risk behavior like smoking and poor diet. They maintain that these factors are more common in individuals from deprived backgrounds and that this study reveals major social inequalities in Scotland.

Biomarkers show little help at predicting heart disease ... Over the years, researchers have identified several substances in the blood that can serve as so-called cardiac biomarkers used to measure the presence and development of cardiovascular disease. Researchers have increasingly tried to use these biomarkers to identify people who are at high risk of developing heart disease, but a new study has found that they offer little help in this way. A team from Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston) and Sweden's Lund University studied how effective the biomarkers are as predictors. Thomas Wang at the Mass General Heart Center was the senior author of the study. He said that his team did identify combinations of biomarkers that improved predictions of heart attacks and strokes. But, he said, there is not enough evidence to justify measuring these in everybody.

— Compiled by Amanda Pedersen, MDD