UTRECHT, Netherlands, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Incidental test findings -- medical imaging detections unrelated to the purpose of the scan -- can help identify heart disease risk, Dutch researchers say.
Dr. Martijn Gondrie of the Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care at the University Medical Center Utrecht, Netherlands, says computer-assisted medical imaging such as computed tomography could be used by radiologists to identify people at high risk for cardiovascular disease.
The study, published in Radiology, found radiologists could predict cardiovascular disease fairly well by combining minimal patient information -- such as age, gender and the reason for the test -- with incidental findings of calcifications of the aortic wall on CT.
"This is the first study to investigate whether incidental findings can predict future disease in a routine care setting," lead author Gondrie says in a statement. "Incidental findings are obtained without additional radiation exposure or cost to the patient and may hold valuable clues as to the patient's overall health and their risk for future disease."
Gondrie and colleagues developed findings based on a total of 6,975 patients. The patients included those who had undergone chest CT for reasons not related to heart disease, a representative sample of 817 patients, plus 347 patients who experienced a cardiovascular event during a mean follow-up period of 17 months.
Scores were assigned for incidental aortic abnormalities found on CT -- such as calcifications, plaques, elongation and other irregularities -- as well as age, gender and reason for CT.