0625 GMT February 22, 2018
The medical emergencies are hard to predict but now experts believe they have had a breakthrough, express.co.uk reported.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off — which can affect or damage brain cells.
Patients at risk of heart attacks and strokes may now be spotted earlier thanks to a diagnosis tool that uses near-infrared light.
The laser can identify high-risk arterial plaques, experts have claimed.
Plaques are formed when arteries become blocked by fatty material — a process called atherosclerosis.
Age is the main risk factors for the condition — which is why strokes and heart attacks tend to happen in older people.
While some fatty deposits or plaques can remain stable for years, other high-risk cases develop complications.
These include bleeding into the plaque, which leads to the formation of cracks and rupture of the fatty plaque.
This can result in blockages in the blood vessels causing a heart attack or stroke.
Scientists at the University of Warwick, the Baker Institute and Monash University found that when they increased the wavelength of the light currently used to visualize the plaques they could selectively identify the areas where a rupture was most likely.
The deposits can lead to blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.
Current imaging techniques are able to identify some characteristics of high-risk plaques but none are generally accepted as reliable methods for detecting the dangerous plaques.
Dr. Tara Schiller, from the University of Warwick, is among the experts to have discovered that increasing the wavelength of the infra-red (IR) radiation used to detect fatty deposit build-up in arteries to near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths allowed the scientists to selectively identify risk areas.
Schiller said, “What we have done uses innovative, materials-based techniques to assist in the development of new diagnostic tools.
“This could help us to detect the threat of an imminent heart attack and result in a decrease of the mortality rates.”
Dr. Karlheinz Peter added, “Despite the millions of dollars spent each year particularly on heart imaging, there still isn't a reliable way of identifying these unstable plaques.
“We realized when we shine a light in the near-infrared wavelength range, that this light is reflected at a certain wavelength.
“So in a way we can use laser light to shine up the plaques that are unstable and it's very characteristic.”
After further investigation with clinical trials this method of imaging technique could be used to assess unstable fatty arterial plaques.
Experts said that it could also be used to monitor the effectiveness of the drugs used to prevent heart attacks or strokes.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications