May 11 2008
According to scientists in the United States, a doctor may be able to determine a person's risk of having a heart attack just by listening to their heart with a stethoscope.
The scientists from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington say that a certain noise is made by the heart when fatty deposits on the wall of the arteries accumulate and this can be heard with a stethoscope.
This sound which is caused by the build up of arterial plaque is called a carotid bruit and is the sound that blood makes when it passes over an obstruction in the carotid artery, the main channel for supplying blood to the head and neck.
The researchers analyzed 22 studies featuring 17,295 heart patients who were followed up for four years and they found that the presence of a carotid bruit was linked to double the risk of suffering a heart attack compared to those without a bruit and such people were 2.5 times more likely to die because of a heart attack.
Until now carotid bruits have usually been associated with bleeding in the brain.
Dr. Christopher Pickett and colleagues say their research shows that the presence of a carotid bruit significantly increases the likelihood of cardiovascular death or heart attack.
The researchers say if doctors can determine that a patient has a carotid bruit, they may be able to design preventative therapies to help reduce heart attack risks.