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Doing a retina scan during each check-up visit to the ophthalmologist could become a quick, cheap and non-invasive solution to detecting the risk of infarction.

Based on the records of the UK Biobank, which contains comprehensive medical information on 500,000 people in Britain, researchers at the University of Edinburgh have demonstrated that it is possible to determine the risk of heart attack in patients using a simple retinal scan (or optical coherence tomography).

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This painless examination is frequently carried out by the ophthalmologist to monitor AMD or detect possible diabetic retinopathy. The Scottish researchers believe that this examination could also be used to determine the risks of major adverse cardiac events, such as diabetes, stroke or risk of heart attack.

For this study, which must be presented this Monday, June 13 at the Annual Conference of the European Society of Human Genetics, in Vienna (Austria), the team of Dr. Ana Villaplana-Velasco, combined images of the patient’s retinal vessels with medical data. They then developed a model capable of predicting the risk of myocardial infarction using a “individual risk score”. This routine examination would thus allow the doctor to monitor the patients most at risk with a little more attention.

Predict cardiac events based on gender

The researchers want to continue the research and then undertake gender-specific analysis. “We know that women at higher risk of heart attack or coronary artery disease tend to have pronounced retinal vascular deviations compared to the male population. We would like to repeat our analysis separately in men and women to determine if a pattern sex-specific allows for better risk classification,” said Dr. Villaplana-Vellasco.

Already in 2018, researchers from Verily, the health subsidiary of Google, announced that they had developed an algorithm that should allow doctors to obtain an inventory of the cardiovascular health of their patients from a simple retinal scan.

To develop this new screening tool, the researchers tested their algorithm on more than 284,000 patients. The images of the blood vessels of had allowed them to determine the age of each, his blood pressure or even to know if he is a smoker, if he has diabetes or if he has already had a heart attack. From these parameters, the researchers were able to predict “major adverse cardiac events”. The study had been published in the journal Nature.

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