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

'Cardiovascular ultrasound guidelines published' ... New guidelines for cardiovascular ultrasound technology appear in the March issue of the Journal of the American Society of Echocardiography. The guideline document outlines each type of echocardiography study as it relates to specific procedures, and makes recommendations to help guide the selection of the correct type of echocardiogram for the procedure being performed. Procedures addressed in the document include: transatrial septal catheterization, using balloons to open tight mitral valves, closing holes in the heart (atrial septal defects) with clamshell devices, guiding the placement of artificial valves to replace degenerated native valves and more. (

'UK government's vascular screening program flawed' ... The UK government's vascular screening program will misclassify risk in hundreds of thousands of patients and worsen health inequalities, according to research published in Pulse. Primary Care Trusts are preparing to provide screening for everyone between the ages of 40 to 74 beginning in April, but researchers have concluded the move will mean well-off men are over-treated with statins, while all women and less well-off male patients will miss out. The researchers say that the Scottish ASSIGN tool would be far more effective than the Framingham score used in the screening program at identifying risk in women and socially disadvantaged patients. A study carried out in the University of Dundee (Dundee, Scotland) concludes ASSIGN, when used among poorer people, identifies 30% of men and 25% of women, vs. 34% of men and 19% of women using Framingham. (

'Some researchers call for national registry of cardiac devices to track effectiveness, reliability' ... A study released this week that found the Sprint Fidelis defibrillator lead, manufactured by Medtronic (Minneapolis), might fail at a rate significantly higher than previously thought, has led to a debate among researchers "who want to understand the discrepancies and the implications for patient care" and has prompted some to renew calls for a national registry of patients who receive cardiac devices, the New York Times reports. However, according to the Times, "setting up such registries in this country has proved difficult so far."

'NICE guidelines recommend use of stent grafts for treatment of AAA' ... The UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended the use of endovascular stent grafts to treat abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs). Under the recommendation from NICE, the stent grafts should be considered as an option for patients treated by the National Health Service whose aneurysms are below the kidney and have not yet ruptured. (

'First implants of ECM Technology in Europe' ... CorMatrix Cardiovascular (Atlanta) reported that it has begun its expansion in Europe following the first use of the CorMatrix ECM Technology in a patient undergoing cardiac surgery. The first device implanted in Europe was completed by two cardiologists at the University Hospital (Zürich, Switzerland), using the CorMatrix ECM Technology to close the pericardium of a 70-year-old patient following triple coronary artery bypass graft surgery. CorMatrix describes ECM as a biomaterial that does not encapsulate when surgically implanted, but is gradually remodeled, leaving behind organized tissue. (

'Cambridge Heart's non-invasive Microvolt T-Wave Alternans Test predicts risk of sudden cardiac arrest, meta-analysis finds' ... Cambridge Heart (Tewksbury, Massachusetts) reported the publication of five articles supporting the use of its Microvolt T Wave Alternans (MTWA) testing technology in a supplement to the March issue of the Heart Rhythm journal. The supplement offers a meta-analysis of 6,000 patients confirming the value of MTWA as a non-invasive marker of risk for sudden cardiac arrest. (

'Combined use of antiplatelet, gastric acid meds following heart attack or angina associated with increased risk of death, hospitalization' ... Following an acute coronary syndrome such as a heart attack or unstable angina, patients who receive a medication to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding that may be associated with the use of the antiplatelet drug clopidogrel and aspirin have an increased risk of subsequent hospitalization for acute coronary syndrome or death, according to a study in the March 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

'Risk of stroke increased by kidney disease' ... Chronic kidney disease increases the risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common type of heart arrhythmia, according to a new study by Kaiser Permanente researchers in the current online issue of Circulation. (

'Heightened risk of heart disease faced by pre-diabetics' ... Older adults who have impaired glucose tolerance but who are not considered diabetic are at elevated risk for heart disease and may benefit from preventive therapies, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University (New York). The researchers found that the adults with PCH not only had higher glucose and insulin levels after the meal, but also higher levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat considered an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease).

'Black heart attack patients living in certain areas are more likely than whites to be admitted to hospitals with higher mortality rates' ... A new study finds that black heart attack patients living in racially segregated areas are 35% more likely than whites to be admitted to hospitals with higher mortality rates, even when hospitals that have better outcomes are geographically closer. For the study, Mary Vaughan Sarrazin, an assistant professor at the University of Iowa (Iowa City), and colleagues analyzed hospital admissions of Medicare beneficiaries for heart attacks in 118 healthcare markets between 2000 and 2005. (

'Study shows flavonoid supplements prevent impairment of endothelial function after high-fat meals' ... Itamar Medical (Caesarea, Israel), a company developing noninvasive diagnostic technology using the Peripheral Arterial Tone Signal, reported use of its patented Endo-PAT2000 in a study by the Carolinas HealthCare System (Charlotte, North Carolina) of the potential benefits of flavonoid supplementation on endothelial function. The Endo-PAT2000 was used to measure participants' endothelial function in a study designed to evaluate how flavonoid supplementation can prevent the adverse impact on endothelial function caused by a high-fat meal. (

'New predictive tool could be used to identify people at risk of AF' ... Scientists have developed a risk score that could help to identify people at risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) in the primary care setting, and may also aid the targeting of prevention measures at high-risk individuals, according to a report in The Lancet. Using data from the Framingham Heart Study, researchers selected 4,764 individuals aged, 45-95, who did not have AF, from 80,444 examinations done between June, 1968, and September, 1987. Participants were followed over 10 years and monitored for AF, to develop a risk score from clinical characteristics, examination, and echocardiographic measures.

— Gathered by Don Long, MDD National Editor

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