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December 17, 2018

Jefferson identifies treatment for under-diagnosed cause of severe chest pain

Coronary slow flow causes heart attack-like symptoms

Senior Health Jefferson Health
Stock_Carroll - Philadelphia University Jefferson Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Philadelphia University is now Thomas Jefferson University.

Jefferson researchers have found an effective treatment for an under-diagnosed condition that can cause symptoms similar to that of a heart attack.

Not much is known about coronary slow flow, a condition in which arteries fill with blood more slowly than normal – even without fatty plaque deposits. The condition causes severe chest pain.

Researchers have not determined its cause, nor do they understand why 80 percent of diagnosed patients experience additional episodes of chest pain. Though the condition appears on angiograms of the heart, many cardiologists aren't familiar with the condition and therefore miss diagnosing it, according to Jefferson researchers.

But despite all the unknowns surrounding coronary slow flow, Jefferson researchers have developed an effective treatment. Their findings were published last Saturday in the Journal of Invasive Cardiology.

"Here we've shown that once you do recognize it, the condition can be treated with an existing and safe medical intervention that reverses the problem," senior author Dr. Michael Savage said in a statement.

Coronary slow flow can be treated with nicardipine, a drug that is used to treat a no-reflow phenomenon caused by microvascular spasm during coronary angioplasty procedures.

Jefferson researchers analyzed the data and outcomes of 30 patients who received a nicardipine injection during cardiac catheterization. They found 49 total blood vessels experiencing slow blood flow. After the injection, each blood vessel had a normal blood flow.

"It is a simple intervention that takes only a few seconds to administer and helps diagnose the condition and treat it at the same time," Savage said.

The drug appears to reverse coronary slow flow in the short term, but additional research is needed to determine whether results are permanent.

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