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$3.2 Million NIH Grant to Study Why Some Patients Develop Shortness of Breath and Pulmonary Congestion Due to Hypertension, Diabetes and Coronary Artery Disease

The Heart Center at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center has received a $3.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to see if magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to predict why some patients with diabetes, hypertension or prior coronary artery disease develop pulmonary congestion leading to hospitalization.

“This is the first large study by the federal government focused on identifying factors that contribute to these patients commonly developing shortness of breath over time,” said cardiologist W. Gregory Hundley, M.D., professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist and lead researcher in the study. “If our study can detect why this happens, doctors can develop ways to treat these patients more effectively and prevent complications that lead to reduced quality of life from conditions such as pulmonary congestion. The results may also reduce the need for expensive admissions to emergency departments and hospitals.”

This sudden build up of fluid in the lungs—flash pulmonary edema—is a significant problem in patients with underlying high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. More than $10 billion annually is spent in the United States providing health care for those suffering from this condition.

“This study uses a new form of MRI testing to look at the health of individuals’ hearts and their blood vessels in order to identify earlier the potential problems that may lead to shortness of breath, which is the main symptom of pulmonary congestion,” Hundley said.

A total of 608 people, 55-85 years old, are being recruited for the study at Wake Forest Baptist. Each participant will undergo a review of their medical records as they pertain to cardiovascular disease, a physical exam, a questionnaire, an MRI stress test and blood tests. They will also participate in questionnaires by telephone or mail over a two- to 10-year period to review their cardiovascular health. For information about participating in the study, call (336) 716-1178.

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Media contact: Jim Steele, (336) 716-3487, jsteele@wfubmc.edu, Bonnie Davis, bdavis@wfubmc.edu; or Shannon Koontz, shkoontz@wfubmc.edu, (336) 716-4587.

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. The system comprises 1,154 acute care, psychiatric, rehabilitation and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.

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