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A study, reported in Circulation (October 11, 2004), showed that an advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan can determine whether cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are succeeding in unblocking patients' clogged arteries. The researchers followed 29 patients who took simvastatin for 3 years. In an attempt to speed up the progress results of MRIs, the researchers at John Hopkins University improved their MRI's sensitivity by putting extra coil rings around the chest of each of the participants. The researchers inserted an antenna through the nose and down the esophagus of each participant.
The MRI results demonstrated artery-blocking plaque thinning after 6 months of treatment. The findings also indicated that lowdensity lipoprotein ("bad") cholesterol was the lowest in the participants in whom plaque was reduced the most. The researchers suggested that statins save lives because they take cholesterol out of the blood, not because of their secondary effects of reducing inflammation.