The Highest of the High Risk

Type 2 diabetes patients with high risk of early death can be identified with common test

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Diabetes can be scary. It can cause all sorts of health problems, as many patients face a high risk of early death from heart attack or stroke. Now, research shows that a common test could spot those patients with the highest risk of early death.

A type of X-ray image - called computed tomography (CT) - can show doctors how much plaque is blocking patients' blood vessels. Type 2 diabetes patients with the most amount of plaque in their blood vessels were six times more likely of dying early than patients with the lowest amount of plaque.

"Ask your doctor which diabetes test you should take."

Donald W. Bowden, Ph.D., from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and colleagues have been studying almost 1,500 diabetes patients for about 13 years. Over the course of the study, they noticed that many of the original patients involved in the study began to die. They wanted to find out why this was happening.

The researchers singled out patients who already had a high risk of early death. Then, they wanted to find out who had the greatest risk of these high-risk patients.

Bowden says his team was looking for a way to spot these patients who had an even higher risk so that they could find new ways to treat and focus attention on people who may suffer an early death.

The researchers divided over 1,000 patients into five groups according to the amount of calcified plaque (a sign of heart disease) that they had in their blood vessels. They followed these patients for an average of 7.4 years.

According to Bowden, patients with the highest coronary artery calcium score (a measure of the amount of calcified plaque in the blood vessels) were six times more likely than those with the lowest score to suffer an early death.

This is a striking difference in risk, says Bowden. All of the patients that were analyzed in this study already had a high risk of early death. But those with a high coronary artery calcium score had a dramatically higher risk.

This highlights the importance of identifying these patients so that doctors can step in early and focus care on those who need it the most.

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Review Date: 
May 23, 2011
Last Updated:
May 23, 2011