Doctors hail new non-invasive 3D heart disease tool

Doctors are using a new tool to create a 3D image of a patient’s coronary arteries in a “pioneering” technique to diagnose and manage heart disease.

The technology, fractional flow reserve computed tomography, developed by US company HeartFlow, creates a detailed 3D model of a patient’s coronary arteries from a standard CT scan image.

It then uses complex calculations to work out the extent of blockages in the coronary arteries and if they are restricting the flow of blood — all without the need for invasive intervention.

Nick Curzen, a consultant cardiologist at Southampton General Hospital, said the system could become the default method for the initial assessment of patients with chest pain after he presented a study that showed it changed treatment plans in more than a third of cases.

Coronary heart disease develops when a build up of fatty substances silts up or blocks the blood supply to the heart. It is the most common cause of angina — chest pain — and heart attacks and is responsible for 73,000 deaths in the UK every year.

Currently, most patients presenting with angina end up having an angiogram, in which thin plastic tubes are passed from an artery in the wrist to the heart so that dye can be injected down the coronary arteries under an X-ray camera.

However, in a study presented at the European Association of Percutaneous Cardiovascular Interventions congress, Prof Curzen and his colleagues found that using the new technology added “significant” detail to standard CT scans of patients who presented with angina. This enabled the clinicians to make improvements in diagnosis and management without the use of an invasive angiogram X-ray and pressure wire.

Prof Curzen said: “This has important implications for our clinical practice and could re-define conventional care pathways.”


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