A new technique developed by cardiologists of Royal Brompton Hospital helps in determining the risk of sudden death due to weakness in heart of young people. The process involves injecting a dye called gadolinium into the patient's vein and then scanning for the results using MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).
The scan indicates heart scar tissue that can clue-in doctors to dilated cardiomyopathy or DCM, which otherwise will go undetected. With DCM, the heart is either weak or enlarged, resulting in the difficulties for pumping blood. It is a common form of heart muscle disease with children. The gadolinium tends to linger around the scar tissue due to a lower blood supply in scar tissue than other normal tissues. The gadolinium's special magnetic property also indicates scar tissue brightly on the scan thus making it very easy to detect.
Lead researcher Professor Dudley Pennell said: "the scans should aid in choosing treatment choices. Prior to this technique it was difficult to decide which patients could be treated effectively using drugs alone, and which patients needed life-saving devices implanted." Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said that this was an important advance that will help doctors prevent lives being lost to the condition.