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

ACC.09 and i2.09 begin this weekend . . . . The 58th annual Scientific Sessions of the American College of Cardiology (ACC; Washington) will be held in Orlando March 29-31. The ACC's Innovation in Intervention: i2 Summit 2009, in partnership with the Cardiovascular Research Foundation, will take place March 28-31. ACC.09 and i2.09 feature the latest findings in cardiovascular science and clinical applications. (

NHLBI halts emergency use saline for patients with shock . . . . The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health has halted a trial studying benefits/safety of administering a concentrated form of saline solution in the ambulance (before hospital to trauma patients suffering from shock due to severe bleeding). NHLBI suspended enrollment on Wednesday, due to concerns raised by a Data and Safety Monitoring Board of the Research Outcomes Consortium (ROC), which observed no difference among the treatment groups in 28-day mortality. More of the patients receiving hypertonic saline died before reaching the hospital or in the emergency department, while more of the patients receiving normal saline died during the remainder of the 28-day follow-up period.

Heart valve surgery – then some laughs . . . . Comedian Robin Williams was reported recovering from successful heart surgery he underwent at the Cleveland Clinic on Friday the 13th. "Mr. Williams' operation went extremely well and we expect him to make a full recovery," said cardiothoracic surgeon A. Marc Gillinov. The 3 1/2-hour surgery was conducted to replace his aortic valve, repair his mitral valve, and correct his irregular heart beat. "His heart is strong and he will have normal heart function in the coming weeks with no limitations on what he'll be able to do," Gillinov said. He added: "A couple of hours after surgery, he was entertaining the medical team and making us all laugh."

Abnormal EKG predicts death in stroke patients . . . . In an article published online March 20 in the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases, researchers conclude that people who suffer an ischemic stroke and also have an abnormality in the heart's electrical cycle are at a higher risk of death within 90 days than people who do not have abnormal electrical activity at the time of emergency treatment. The study, by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (Rochester, New York) also provides a threshold at which the threat of death is highest: QTc intervals greater than 440 milliseconds in women and 438 milliseconds in men have the worst prognosis. (

Blood stem cell attachment, communication identified . . . . Researchers at the National Institutes of Health say they have deciphered a key sequence of events governing whether the stem cells that produce red and white blood cells remain anchored to the bone marrow, or migrate into the circulatory system. An understanding of the factors that govern migration of blood stem cells might lead to improved treatment of leukemia, a cancer that affects circulating white blood cells. The findings were published on line in Nature Cell Biology. (

1st Middle East cardiology conference . . . . Cardiologists from Israel, Palestine, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and other countries in the Middle East will gather at the Indianapolis Campus Center of Indiana University-Purdue University April 1-2 for the First International Cardiovascular Conference: Focus on the Middle East. The conference is a cooperative effort of the American College of Cardiology, the Division of Cardiology of the Indiana University School of Medicine, the Heart Rhythm Society (Washington), and Clarian Health (Indianapolis) (Registration information:

Big step toward national heart disease surveillance . . . . The Centers for Disease Control (Atlanta) has begun to establish a unit to systematically track cardiovascular disease and stroke in the U.S., the first step toward an organized national surveillance system for the two conditions and the first of its kind in the U.S. The goal of the new surveillance unit is to track patterns of cardiovascular disease and risk factors like smoking, obesity and exercise. The new system will add questions about cardiovascular conditions and their risk factors to surveys like the National Health Interview Survey. Experts also plan to tap into resources like electronic health records and public health laboratories for information on heart disease and stroke occurrences. Source: Comments by David Goff, Jr. MD, PhD, presented at the 7th National Forum for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention, March 17-20 in Washington.

Rare genetic heart disorder progresses rapidly, often deadly . . . . A study that included young patients with a recently recognized rare type of cardiomyopathy linked to a genetic mutation finds that disease progression may be rapid and often results in early death, according to a study in the March 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA. 2009;301[12]:1253-1259). Mutations in the lysosome-associated membrane protein gene (LAMP2; known as Danon disease) produce a cardiomyopathy in young patients that csimilar to severe hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (in which the heart muscle thickens and forces it to work harder). (

Study advises fixing both blood pressure and cholesterol . . . . Heart disease patients who achieve normal blood pressure and very low cholesterol levels with aggressive drug therapy do better than patients who achieve only one of these goals, new research suggests. Using ultrasound to identify plaque buildup within the artery walls as a measure of disease progression, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that patients who were able to get their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol below 70 mg/dL and their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) below 120 with medication had less plaque buildup over the course of the study than patients who reached just one or neither of these targets.

Infra-red tech shows cholesterol-blocked blood vessels in minute detail . . . . Near infra-red light from a tiny wire gives an unprecedented inside view of symptoms of heart disease in the arteries around the heart at Northern Hospital (Melbourne, Australia). Employing optical coherence tomography, the $250,000 machine is being used on a special-case basis while being reviewed by Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration. (

Energy drinks may advance hypertension, heart disease . . . . Researchers found that healthy adults who drank two cans a day of an energy drink containing caffeine and levels of taurine experienced an increase in their blood pressure and heart rate. The increases were insignificant for healthy adults, but could prove harmful to people with a heart-related condition, according to James Kalus, PharmD, senior manager of Patient Care Services at Henry Ford Hospital (Detroit), lead author of the study. The brand of drink is notidentified because most energy drinks on the market boast similar levels of caffeine and taurine, an amino acid derivative found in meat and fish. (

SCAI applauds CMS revisit of decision to expand carotid artery stenting coverage . . . . The Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI; Washington) issued a statement applauding the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services decision to revisit its decision on expanded coverage for carotid artery stenting (CAS). Expanded coverage of CAS to include all FDA-approved indications would reverse the agency's Oct. 16, 2008, decision not to expand coverage of CAS, based on a lack of published, peer-reviewed data. (For information about SCAI and Seconds Count: or

— Compiled by Don Long, MDD National Editor

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