Fibromuscular Dysplasia Symposium

Conference to Focus on Rare Vascular Disease

Physicians and researchers from around the world will gather at Cleveland Clinic May 15–16 for a symposium about a little-known vascular disease that affects mostly women.

Fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) is a rare disorder associated with vascular complications such as hypertension, stroke, arterial aneurysm (a bulge in an artery wall that could rupture), and arterial dissection (a tear in an artery wall that can lead to a stroke). This condition also can cause chronic, severe headaches and a very annoying “swooshing” noise in the ear known as pulsatile tinnitus.

“The symptoms of FMD can be a frustrating journey for patients to finally receive a correct diagnosis,” says Heather L. Gornik, MD, MHS, Medical Director of the Non-Invasive Vascular Laboratory of Cleveland Clinic’s Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute. “Unfortunately, few healthcare providers are familiar with this condition let alone know how to manage patients with this disease to optimize health and quality of life.”

Considerable research is underway to identify the causes of FMD, which are still unknown.
Some factors may include:

  • Hormonal influences: The disease occurs most commonly in women.
  • Genetics: It has been previously estimated that about 10 percent of cases are inherited, but the genetics of FMD are likely complex. FMD also may occur with other genetic abnormalities that affect the blood vessels. 
  • Internal mechanical stress, including trauma to the artery walls or vessel movement 
  • Environmental factors such as tobacco smoking or certain medications.
Advancing Knowledge

Led by Dr. Gornik, the scientific conference will bring together key researchers and clinical thought leaders in the field.

“This will be the largest assembly of investigators interested in FMD and related vascular diseases,” Dr. Gornik says. “Increasing the medical community’s knowledge about FMD can lead to more accurate diagnoses and better treatment options, thus benefiting patients now and in the future. This meeting will help us make major advances in understanding and treating this disease”

A Partnership for the Future

Philanthropic support for the conference could help draw top researchers to Cleveland from across the globe.

“It’s important because we need to move forward to understand the genetic, hormonal and environmental underpinnings of this disease,” she says. “We need a study to determine the prevalence of disease in certain populations and to develop clinical protocols for improving patient care.”

FMD has become both her professional and life’s passion, Dr. Gornik says. “I am incredibly excited to be able to host this conference at Cleveland Clinic, and I think it will have a major impact on this disease.”

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