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Research Corner

Women's Heart Program Provides Innovative Diagnostic Test for Microvascular Disease

As heard on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, Cedars-Sinai, through its Women's Heart Program, is the only medical center on the West Coast providing an innovative, two-step pharmacological diagnostic test aimed at detecting microvascular cardiac disease in women.

Cardiologist C. Noel Bairey Merz, M.D., is hoping that this new test will help lead researchers to develop more effective ways to treat microvascular disease, which occurs nearly four times as often in women as in men.

"Only in recent years have physicians become aware of microvascular disease as a significant problem for women," says Bairey Merz, who directs Cedars-Sinai's Women's Heart Program and its Preventive and Rehabilitative Cardiac Center. "Now the challenge is to integrate into medical practice systematic ways to diagnose and treat the condition."

Until recently, there was not an accurate diagnostic test for disease in the small arteries.

Two-Step Stress Test is Used

A two-step, pharmacological stress test for microvascular disease - an acetylcholine endothelial function and adenosine coronary flow reserve test - is now available at Cedars-Sinai's Cardiovascular Interventional Center. It promises to "greatly enhance our ability to diagnose and treat women with ischemic heart disease," Bairey Merz says.

During the test, the drug adenosine, which normally causes the small vessels of the heart to dilate, is injected into one of the coronary arteries and the amount of blood flow is measured. Next, the drug acetylcholine, which normally causes dilation in the large arteries, is injected and the amount of blood flow is again measured. If either test shows decreased blood flow to the heart muscle, a diagnosis of microvascular disease can be made in women with evidence of insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle and open coronary arteries.

For more information about the Women's Heart Program, call (310) 423-9680.