Researchers showed that patients with a thicker aorta wall and greater plaque build-up, detected by MRI, were more likely to develop conditions such as MI or stroke.
Lead author Dr Christopher Maroules of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas said an assessment of cardiovascular risk could be made during routine MRI for other conditions.
'The abdominal aorta is incidentally imaged on a regular basis,' he said. 'Radiologists can infer prognostic information from routine MRI exams that may benefit patients by identifying subclinical disease.'
In the study, published in the journal Radiology, researchers looked at MR images from 2,122 participants. They examined mean abdominal aortic wall thickness and the amount of plaque build-up.
They monitored participants for almost eight years, during which time 143 experienced an adverse cardiovascular event that included an obstruction of arterial blood flow and led to death or medical intervention.
Thirty-four of the 143 events were fatal, 73 were non-fatal cardiac events such as MI, and 46 were non-fatal extra-cardiac events such as stroke.