SCC Health and Wellness

New detection device for artery disease 

Bruce Bragg, a lifelong athlete and coach of two local lacrosse clubs, appears younger than his 49 years. Like most people in their 40s, Bragg doesn’t think he has atherosclerosis — hardening of the arteries. Last week, Bragg accompanied his wife Reyna Bragg, L.Ac. and her colleague Eldridge E. McCormick, M.D., to their family practice in Ruskin at Sun City Center Health and Wellness, to help the staff learn to use a new machine that can detect extremely early signs of atherosclerosis.

The machine is called a Soterogram, which is the Greek word for “survival.” In February, McCormick became the first doctor in Hillsborough County to install the device. Bruce Bragg volunteered to be the first test subject for the team.

“I’m adopted, but I found my biological mom 15 years ago and I found out that some of my relatives had died of heart attacks around their mid-60s,” Bragg said before the test. “And I’m getting close to that age.”

The six major risk factors for hardening of the arteries includes smoking, obesity, uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, high lipid counts and lack of aerobic exercise.

The Soterogram in action at Sun City Center Health and Wellness. The device measures the stiffness of arterial walls and can determine potential risk levels of heart attack and stroke in patients.

McCormick and representatives from the manufacturer of Soterogram demonstrated how to place the cuffs onto Bragg’s calves, thighs and arms to a device called a Soteria Cardiac Platform. Bragg said it felt like a blood pressure check as the machine took readings from the cuffs. Bragg’s Soterogram came out very good. It showed that he has lost less than 9 percent of his artery elasticity. The device also reported that Bragg’s odds of a heart attack or stroke were only about 7 percent over the next 10 years.

Sun City Center Health and Wellness has performed 50 Soterogram tests on patients since February, and 80 percent required follow-up care because their tests showed significant loss of arterial elasticity. A 50 percent loss of elasticity is considered critical. McCormick then puts patients on a treatment plan.

Dr. Jeffrey K. Raines, inventor of the Soterogram, assisted in the installation at SCC Health and Wellness. He is a mechanical engineer with a degree from MIT, and a Harvard Medical School-trained surgeon.

“The Soterogram very accurately measures how stiff the arterial wall is,” Raines said.

The cuffs on the arms measure pressure, but the ones on the calf and thigh measure volume change. “Volume and pressure changes are measured very accurately and put together to determine elasticity,” Raines said. “When elasticity is reduced, we know that correlates to atherosclerosis.

“As atherosclerosis develops in the arterial wall, the artery becomes stiffer,” Raines said. “A balloon is very elastic. You change the pressure in a balloon and it changes its volume a great deal. A steel pipe, on the other hand — when you change the pressure inside the volume expansion is very low. That’s what is happening with hardening of the arteries. It starts out with an artery acting sort of like a balloon with a lot of elasticity, but as the disease takes its toll, it becomes more like a steel pipe.”

Approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 2014, the Soterogram was first offered in Raines’ hometown of Miami and has worked its way to the Manatee, Sarasota, Ruskin and Sun City Center area.

Many health insurers cover this screening.

Sun City Center Health and Wellness is at 3040 E. College Ave. (S.R. 674), in Ruskin. Call 813-331-3940 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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