Author + information
- Received January 8, 2011
- Revision received January 26, 2011
- Accepted February 1, 2011
- Published online April 1, 2011.
- Adel H. Allam, MD⁎,
- Randall C. Thompson, MD†,‡,
- L. Samuel Wann, MD§,
- Michael I. Miyamoto, MD, MS∥,¶,
- Abd el-Halim Nur el-Din, PhD#,⁎⁎,
- Gomaa Abd el-Maksoud, PhD#,
- Muhammad Al-Tohamy Soliman, PhD††,
- Ibrahem Badr, PhD‡‡,
- Hany Abd el-Rahman Amer, PhD††,
- M. Linda Sutherland, MD§§,
- James D. Sutherland, MD, MS∥∥ and
- Gregory S. Thomas, MD, MPH∥,¶¶,⁎ ()
- ↵⁎Reprint requests and correspondence:
Dr. Gregory S. Thomas, Mission Internal Medical Group, 26800 Crown Valley Parkway, Suite 120, Mission Viejo, California 92691
Objectives The purpose of this study was to determine whether ancient Egyptians had atherosclerosis.
Background The worldwide burden of atherosclerotic disease continues to rise and parallels the spread of diet, lifestyles, and environmental risk factors associated with the developed world. It is tempting to conclude that atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is exclusively a disease of modern society and did not affect our ancient ancestors.
Methods We performed whole body, multislice computed tomography scanning on 52 ancient Egyptian mummies from the Middle Kingdom to the Greco-Roman period to identify cardiovascular structures and arterial calcifications. We interpreted images by consensus reading of 7 imaging physicians, and collected demographic data from historical and museum records. We estimated age at the time of death from the computed tomography skeletal evaluation.
Results Forty-four of 52 mummies had identifiable cardiovascular (CV) structures, and 20 of these had either definite atherosclerosis (defined as calcification within the wall of an identifiable artery, n = 12) or probable atherosclerosis (defined as calcifications along the expected course of an artery, n = 8). Calcifications were found in the aorta as well as the coronary, carotid, iliac, femoral, and peripheral leg arteries. The 20 mummies with definite or probable atherosclerosis were older at time of death (mean age 45.1 ± 9.2 years) than the mummies with CV tissue but no atherosclerosis (mean age 34.5 ± 11.8 years, p < 0.002). Two mummies had evidence of severe arterial atherosclerosis with calcifications in virtually every arterial bed. Definite coronary atherosclerosis was present in 2 mummies, including a princess who lived between 1550 and 1580 BCE. This finding represents the earliest documentation of coronary atherosclerosis in a human. Definite or probable atherosclerosis was present in mummies who lived during virtually every era of ancient Egypt represented in this study, a time span of >2,000 years.
Conclusions Atherosclerosis is commonplace in mummified ancient Egyptians.
- arterial calcifications
- computed tomography scan
- coronary artery disease
- coronary calcification
This work was funded by the Paleocardiology Foundation from contributions by Siemens, the National Bank of Egypt, St. Luke's Hospital Foundation, and various individual donors. All authors have reported that they have no relationships to disclose.
- Received January 8, 2011.
- Revision received January 26, 2011.
- Accepted February 1, 2011.
- American College of Cardiology Foundation