A scanning technique developed by British scientists can cut thalassaemia deaths by 70 percent, indicate reports.
Thalassaemia is an inherited disorder affecting the production of haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen around the body, and thus causing anemia.
About 60,000 babies a year are born with the condition around the world. It is particularly prevalent among Mediterranean people and is also common among South Asians.
Seventy per cent of patients with thalassaemia currently die of heart failure.
According to a report in the Times, researchers at the Royal Brompton Hospital and Imperial College London have made a breakthrough in the monitoring of the disorder.
A study of the scanning advance, which allows the identification of patients at risk of imminent heart failure, has been shown to cut mortality rates by 71 per cent.
Scientists told The Times that the same technology, which tracks the dangerous build-up of iron in the heart caused by regular blood transfusions, would help sufferers of other conditions reliant on transfusions, such as leukaemia.
The scanning technique involves the use of cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) to identify and track these iron levels, with the strength of disturbance to the magnetic field indicating the amount of iron present.
The leader of the study, Dudley Pennell, director of the National Institute for Health Research cardiovascular unit at Royal Brompton Hospital, said that the advance would greatly increase life expectancy and wellbeing for thalassaemia patients, who have had to rely on inaccurate biopsies and blood tests in an attempt to keep track of iron build-up.
He said that worldwide use of the T2 technique, which is non-invasive and has no known side-effects, had the potential to save 30,000 lives a year.
"This is a major breakthrough for thalassaemia patients and will completely change the way the disease is managed," Professor Pennell said.
"It is the first time we have been able to track risk of heart failure, which causes three quarters of deaths. If you magnetise the patient's heart, the amount of signal you get out is the amount of iron in it. This has big implications globally, not only in thalassaemia treatment but also other conditions that require regular transfusions," he added.