New FMD Guidelines Pave the Way for More Research

Goal is to better understand the condition, treatment

Doctor and Patient

The American Heart Association recently introduced new guidelines on a condition called fibromuscular dysplasia.

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The multi-disciplinary statement will help to pave the way for new research. This will help doctors and researchers better understand the condition.

Ultimately, such research will improve care and treatment of patients with FMD.

What is FMD?

FMD is a disease that causes narrowing and enlargement of the medium-sized arteries in the body. The areas of narrowing and bulging occur next to each other, and can look similar to a string of beads. These narrowed arteries can damage organs.

FMD is most common in women between the ages of 40 and 60, and appears most commonly in the arteries leading to the kidneys and the brain. FMD also can affect the arteries leading to the abdomen, arms and legs.

Symptoms of FMD often are common and non-specific. This leads some researchers to believe doctors may not always recognize the condition.

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Symptoms can include:

  • Frequent headache, especially migraine.
  • High blood pressure.
  • A swishing noise in the ears.
  • Dizziness.

Up to one-third of FMD patients have an aneurysm or have had a tear, also called a dissection, in one or more arteries of the body.

Doctors can also find FMD when a patient has a scan for another problem. The doctors suspect the condition when they see arteries that look like a string of beads.

FMD has no cure, but there are effective treatments including medications, angioplasty of narrowed arteries that are causing symptoms, and treatment of associated aneurysms.

Steps forward for the field

The new guidelines:

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  • Summarize all of the research on FMD up to 2014.
  • Introduce a new classification system for the artery lesions in FMD.
  • Clarify many commonly held misconceptions about FMD.
  • Identify 11 research priorities.

“To have the American Heart Association publish a formal scientific statement on this under-recognized and under-studied disease is a huge advancement for the field of fibromuscular dysplasia,” says Heather L. Gornik, MD, Medical Director of the Non-Invasive Vascular Laboratory at Cleveland Clinic and founder of the FMD Program in the section of Vascular Medicine.

“We anticipate that this paper will lead to additional research in understanding FMD and optimizing care for FMD patients,” Dr. Gornik says. “More evidence will support our clinical management.” 

The scientific statement’s  listing of the top FMD research priorities is important, as is the new classification system, Dr. Gornik says.

The new classification system will help clinicians describe FMD lesions and their patients’ cases with a common, simple language.

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