"This is important because it helps us understand the gender gap in heart disease, but it is also scary because we don't have any easy way to identify these lesions in women before they rupture and cause a heart attack. It's fair to say that some women have diseased arteries in their hearts that are invisible ticking time bombs," he says.
It's too early in the research to suggest that all women with heart attack symptoms and clear angiograms should get tested with IVUS, Reynolds says.
What cardiologists and women should take from this research, however, is that "even if the 'regular' test shows no blockages, you are not totally out of the woods," says Dr. Christopher Cannon, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Instead, doctors should treat these women's risk factors to lower their risk of a repeat cardiac event, he says.
"Women in Brown's situation should also make sure to ask their doctors if they should be put on medication to lower their cardiovascular risk," Reynolds says.