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Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Cardiovascular Health Channel
Reported November 20, 2006

Bubbles Predict Heart Attacks

Bubbles Predict Heart AttacksPORTLAND, Ore. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- The only thing Elton Cain remembers about being rushed to the hospital was the tightness in his chest. "They just pushed me in the emergency room there and went to work, and after that it's all history to me," he says.

But cardiologist Kevin Wei, M.D., remembers it well. He was called to the ER to determine if Cain was having a heart attack. The first thing he did was look at Cain's EKG...

Bubbles Predict Heart Attacks"It doesn't tell us definitively that he's having an acute heart attack," Dr. Wei, associate professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, tells Ivanhoe.

In fact, up to 30 percent of heart attacks won't show up on an EKG. A blood test can also detect a heart attack, but it can take hours.

Dr. Wei says, "Time is muscle, and the longer that the heart muscle is starved of blood, the more serious the injury, or the heart attack could be." So he used something new that only a few centers across the county are using -- an ultrasound picture enhanced with microbubbles. The tiny bubbles are injected into the bloodstream and travel to the heart muscle.

Bubbles Predict Heart AttacksIn an ultrasound of Cain's heart without the bubbles, Dr. Wei couldn't actually see very well where the heart muscle is. But in the picture with microbubbles, "We can see very clearly this horseshoe shaped area, which is the heart muscle, and how one area is not contracting," Dr. Wei says.

Cain was indeed having a heart attack. Doctors immediately started him on medication. If they'd waited for his blood test to come back, treatment would have been delayed by about seven hours. He eventually had to have bypass surgery for his heart.

This article was reported by, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: /newsalert/.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Henry Lenhart
Oregon Health & Science University
Mail code L217
3181 S.W. Sam Jackson Park Road
Portland, OR 97235
(503) 494-8231

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