Narrowed Artery Condition Often Goes Undiagnosed: Study

THURSDAY Jan. 19, 2012 -- Millions of Americans have an undiagnosed artery disorder that can lead to high blood pressure, stroke and aneurysms, a new study reveals.

The disorder is fibromuscular dysplasia, an accumulation of fibrous tissues in the arteries that causes them to narrow. The condition can occur in any artery but occurs most often in kidney or neck arteries. It affects close to 4 percent of Americans.

If untreated, fibromuscular dysplasia can lead to a potentially fatal tear in the artery.

Most patients with the condition are women, and high blood pressure and headache are the most common symptoms, according to a presentation this week at the annual International Symposium on Endovascular Therapy in Miami Beach, Fla.

The data from 339 registry patients enrolled at seven U.S. centers showed that 91 percent of the patients were women and more than 95 had one or more symptoms. The most common symptoms were: high blood pressure (66 percent); headaches (53 percent); rhythmic ringing in the ears (30 percent); dizziness (28 percent); whooshing sound in the ear (24 percent); and neck pain (22 percent).

Nineteen percent of the patients had suffered a tear in an artery, most often in the carotid (neck) artery, and 17 percent had suffered an aneurysm (a bulge in an artery), most often in the renal (kidney) artery, the study authors reported in a symposium news release.

In a subgroup of 309 patients, fibromuscular dysplasia occurred in the kidney arteries of 69 percent of patients and in the neck arteries of 62 percent of patients. Many patients have fibromuscular dysplasia in both their kidney and neck arteries.

The disorder often goes undiagnosed because doctors rarely look for it. The condition is often found by accident when patients undergo medical imaging for other conditions. It can be diagnosed with ultrasound, angiography, CT angiography, and magnetic resonance angiography, the study authors pointed out.

"It's important to diagnose the disease because 20 percent of people who have fibromuscular dysplasia have an aneurysm somewhere in their body which could leak or burst, a life-threatening condition," Dr. Jeffrey Olin, director of vascular medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, said in the news release.

"Doctors need to look for fibromuscular dysplasia, particularly in patients younger than 35 who have high blood pressure or migraine-type headaches," he added.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about fibromuscular dysplasia.

Posted: January 2012


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