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Medical University of South Carolina First To Test New Heart Imaging Method To Detect Coronary Artery Disease

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 General News J E 4
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CHARLESTON, S.C., Feb. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) are the first in the world to demonstrate the feasibility of a new method of detecting cardiac disease using enhanced computed tomography scanning technology.  The findings will be published in the upcoming March / April issue of the Journal of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography.

CT scanners have successfully been used for the non-invasive detection of blockages or narrowing of the heart blood vessels. However, they could not evaluate the blood supply of the heart muscle itself like nuclear medicine studies, which involve the injection of radioactive dye. This shortcoming may now have been resolved with the introduction of second generation dual-source CT. Based on the findings of the MUSC researchers, this newest CT scanner generation has potential to evolve into a standalone method for imaging all aspects of coronary heart disease.

Radiologists and cardiologists from MUSC, led by Joseph Schoepf, MD, professor of radiology and medicine and director of cardiovascular imaging, demonstrated that second generation dual source CT scanners allow doctors to image both, the heart vessels and the heart blood supply with a non-invasive CT scan as the only test. The test is based on the "shuttle" mode of the second generation dual-source CT scanner, which means that the scanner performs several quick sweeps over a patient's heart during the infusion of an iodine-based contrast medium ("dye").

"With this technique we can observe and measure the passage of the dye through the heart muscle and detect areas that do not receive enough blood. The beauty of this approach is that the same machine can be used to non-invasively look at the heart blood vessels for narrowing or blockages," Schoepf said.

"This would allow detecting or excluding narrowing or blockages of the heart blood vessels without the need for an invasive catheter, while at the same time determining the blood supply of the heart muscle without the need for radioactive dye. In addition the viability of damaged heart muscle tissue can be assessed, and the success of bypass surgery predicted, all with non-invasive CT as a single test," he continued.

Schoepf did point out that the study has limitations. The researchers' first publication is based on only three patients who were investigated using this method and compared to traditional tests, such as nuclear medicine studies and magnetic resonance imaging, although the research study is ongoing and significantly more patients have been recruited in the meantime. Like most techniques that are used for imaging the heart, the second generation dual source CT scans also expose patients to radiation, although new protection techniques on the new scanner substantially reduce radiation compared to older CT systems.

There are approximately 100 scanners around the world capable of performing this test, Schoepf said.  "Further research needs to be conducted on larger numbers of patients to further validate and better establish this concept but our initial experiences have been very promising. We are confident that our approach has potential to become an important tool in the diagnosis of coronary heart disease, and more and more centers will adopt it," he said.

About MUSC:

Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and residents, and has nearly 11,000 employees, including 1,500 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $1.6 billion. MUSC operates a 750-bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized Children's Hospital and a leading Institute of Psychiatry. For more information on academic information or clinical services, visit www.musc.edu or  www.muschealth.com.

Web newsroom: http://newsroom.muschealth.com/

Twitter @MUSCHealth

SOURCE Medical University of South Carolina

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