Cerebral and coronary vascular reactivity in patients at risk for myocardial infarction and stroke using advanced imaging and blood gas control techniques

Cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, is a major public health concern. The Public Health Agency of Canada indicates that 37 per cent of all deaths in Canada are cardiovascular in origin and approximately 10 per cent of hospitalizations in Canada are related to heart disease or stroke. Cardiovascular risk is currently estimated by assessing risk factors such as smoking status, height, weight, and the amount of cholesterol in the blood. Alternate methods such as viewing the heart and brain with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) could be more useful, as they would help physicians detect and treat impairments in vascular function much earlier, thus reducing cardiovascular disease risk. Dr. Glen Foster wants to find out how measurements of vascular function are related to stroke or heart disease risk by assessing blood vessel function in patients at risk for both diseases. He is defining the relationship between brain blood vessel function and stroke, and heart vessel function and heart disease, by comparing patients who have recently suffered strokes or heart attacks with subjects who are in low- or high-risk groups for either of these conditions. He will be working with a number of colleagues at UBC who have designed a unique system capable of manipulating and controlling blood oxygen and carbon dioxide content within the MRI scanner to examine changes in vascular function in response. Using the MRI to measure vascular function throughout the vessels of the heart and brain, while accurately controlling the blood oxygen and carbon dioxide, is an important new idea in the clinical setting. This leading-edge concept could revolutionize sub-clinical detection of cardiovascular disease; it could help track how effective treatment is and provide new information in the specific anatomical area of heart disease and stroke.