Harvard Heart Letter

Portable ultrasound reveals early signs of heart disease

A portable ultrasound device that detects plaque buildup in arteries may offer a simple, cost-effective way to detect heart disease before it causes any symptoms. A report in the December 2014 Global Heart journal describes findings from a large-scale test of the technology in India, the United States, and Canada.

The innermost layer of an artery's wall (the intima) provides a smooth surface for blood to flow through. The middle layer (the media) contains muscle and elastic fibers that let the vessel expand and contract with each heartbeat. The thicker the intima and the media, the more likely the artery is choked with cholesterol-filled plaque. Using ultrasound, a doctor can easily measure the intima-media thickness in the arteries of the neck and upper leg.

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