Silent heart attacks may happen much more often than was commonly thought. That may mean that more people are at risk of a deadly heart attack than was previously suspected according to Duke University experts.
Dr. Han Kim of Duke University thinks that these silent heart attacks, known as unrecognized myocardial infarctions happen more often than what studies have shown in the past.
Doctors look for certain changes when a patient is brought into the ER having a heart attack. Looking at the tell tale signs on an ECG and checking for certain enzymes in the blood is often the tools that emergency room doctors use in treating cardiac patients. Often when a heart attack has happened recently the Q-wave on the EGC shows a change. The problem is not every heart attack will change that Q-wave.
Dr. Kim and his colleagues used a new type of MRI imaging called delayed enhancement cardiovascular magnetic resonance. This new technology is very adept when it comes to locating damaged heart muscles.
The study of 185 patients with coronary artery disease but no record of heart attacks found that 35 percent had evidence of prior silent heart attacks with non-Q-wave patterns. This showed that the non-Q-wave pattern is much more common than silent heart attacks with Q-wave patterns.
In follow ups of patients with the non-Q-wave heart attacks it was found that the sufferers had an 11-fold higher risk of death from any cause than the other patients. More startling is that they have a 17-fold higher risk of death from heart problems compared to patients that did not have any heart damage.
Dr. Kim’s research may change the way these patients are treated. They are currently treated the same as any other heart patient.