Cardiologists at Lahey lead successful trial of device that identifies potentially dangerous plaques

Release Date: 07/13/2009

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Margie Coloian
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Cardiologists at Lahey lead successful trial of device that identifies potentially dangerous plaques

BURLINGTON, MA—Lahey Clinic cardiologists have reported the results of a clinical study validating the use of a device designed to identify fatty coronary plaques in patients that may place them at risk of heart attack. The study, known as SPECTACL (Spectroscopic Assessment of Coronary Lipid) involved more than 100 patients, and results are published in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging.

This is the first clinical study of a dedicated imaging device to look for potentially harmful plaques that cannot be detected by common testing, such as treadmill exams or coronary angiography.

The device, LipiScan™ Coronary Imaging System, developed by InfraReDx, Inc in Burlington, MA, uses near-infrared spectroscopy to identify lipid core containing plaques or fatty deposits in the arteries of the heart. Using the device, researchers identified spectroscopy signals in coronary arteries of patients undergoing non-emergent angioplasty and stenting that were similar to those previously found in autopsy specimens. About 60 percent of the arteries imaged in the study patients revealed strongly positive spectroscopic readings, indicating the presence of fatty plaques.


The ability to look at arteries and see patterns of absorption and reflection of light through spectroscopy enables physicians to learn more about the chemical composition of the vessel wall. Currently, one of the many uses of spectroscopy in science is for determining the chemical composition of substances like soil on Mars or the moon.

The principal investigator for the study is Sergio Waxman, MD, Lahey's director of interventional cardiology research and an interventional cardiologist. In all, five other medical centers participated in the trial that took place between January 2006 and October 2007.

The findings may have great benefits for patient care. “By identifying the composition of plaques,” said Dr. Waxman, “we may be able to tailor our approach to the patient, either through earlier and more aggressive surveillance or more accurate stent placement. We finally have an easy to use technology that will enable us to carry out sorely needed studies of the natural history of fatty plaques,” he said.

About Lahey Clinic
Lahey Clinic, a physician-led, nonprofit group practice, is world-renowned for innovative technology, pioneering medical treatment, and leading-edge research. A teaching hospital of Tufts University School of Medicine, the Clinic provides quality health care in virtually every specialty and subspecialty, from primary care to cancer diagnosis and treatment to kidney and liver transplantation.