Mississauga clinic first to offer new cardio test

By Rosie Lombardi

Yianni SoumaliasCanadian doctors now have a new cardio test they can administer to help manage cardiovascular disease. Called AngioDefender, the diagnostic was developed by U.S.-based Everist Health to measure the health of the endothelium – the single-cell-thick interior lining of all the blood vessels in the body. Recently approved by Health Canada, AngioDefender is now being offered at Closing the Gap Healthcare, a Mississauga-based organization that operates 11 clinics. “We wanted a new way to tackle chronic disease, so we brought this test into Canada,” says Yianni Soumalias (pictured), director of business development at Closing the Gap Healthcare.

The company is affiliated with the Richard Ivy School of Business in London, where Everist Health representatives made a presentation of AngioDefender last year, says Soumalias. “We met with the founders and decided there’s a perfect opportunity here to marry our organizations and deliver this AngioDefender device in Canada.”

The AngioDefender is a shoebox-sized portable device that operates like a blood pressure cuff, inflating and deflating an armband to assess arterial health, explains Soumalias. “What it measures is the elasticity of your brachial artery. If somebody has clogged arteries, it’s not going to be as elastic as someone with healthy arteries.”

The device generates a Flow Mediated Dilation (FMD) score, which is a measure of arterial dilation and an indicator of arterial health. “The average 40 year old person would have an FMD score of about 7 percent. We plug that score into our Cardiovascular Age Calculator where we take additional information such as your height, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels to build a comprehensive snapshot on your overall health to determine how ‘old’ your heart is.”

The AngioDefender is as accurate as the standard brachial arterial ultrasound imaging (BAUI) test typically done in hospitals for patients who have moderate to severe cardiovascular disease, says Soumalias. “However, access is an issue in getting the BAUI test, and you need a technician to interpret the results. With the AngioDefender, you just get a score – there’s no interpretation required because no imaging is done. It allows more people to get the same type of test.”

Closing the Gap Healthcare, through Everist Health, was granted the Canada Health license to offer AngioDefender because its clinicians were able to reproduce the repeatability of the BAUI test, he adds. “We were the ones who brought the AngioDefender to Canada. Five of our locations are now offering this test, and in addition, Dr. Sutton, a cardiologist in London, Ontario is delivering it in his cardiac rehab setting at St. Joseph’s Health Center.”

A key benefit of making the arterial test more widely available in clinics rather than hospitals is that cardiovascular disease can be caught much earlier, when lifestyle changes can make a big difference.

“We’re trying to be a little bit more proactive as opposed to waiting until a patient has an actual cardiac episode before getting a BAUI test. Using AngioDefender is really an opportunity to get ahead of the curve and take control of your health before serious symptoms manifest. The thing with chronic cardiovascular disease is it’s usually one of another co-morbidity that people have. If you can get control of your cardiovascular system’s health then generally speaking all of the other things will line up accordingly.”

At present, Closing the Gap Healthcare is charging about $80 to conduct the AngioDefender test. Many of the patients who take the test have a family history of cardiovascular diseases, and others are just curious to find out their ‘heart age.’

“What I find the most interesting is that, nine times out of 10, people know their results before they get them. They have an idea of how healthy their heart is going to be, which I find remarkable. Then why do they need a test to make lifestyle changes? What we’ve found is that patients are motivated when they see the actual score and how that relates to their heart age. So if you’re 50 and you have a 65-year-old heart, it really resonates. It’s not just high blood pressure. It’s not just high cholesterol. It’s, ‘My heart is 65 and I’m 50? That’s a problem. I’ve got to make some changes.’”

Soumalias believes OHIP will eventually cover the AngioDefender test as it becomes more familiar to doctors. “Like any new product, I think it takes time for the medical community to buy in, but we’ve started to get some good traction with some key physicians. In time, it will hopefully become the standard of care.”

For more information, visit http://www.closingthegap.ca/