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London: Scientists have developed an innovative technology that can halve the time taken to detect patients with heart failure, and may be useful for improving diagnosis and delivering more effective treatments to patients. The technology developed by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA), UK, makes use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to develop detailed four dimensional (4D) flow images of the heart.

However, unlike the conventional MRI which takes up to or more than 20 minutes, the new scanning technology takes just eight minutes, they said.

The results provide a precise image of the heart valves and blood flow inside the heart, helping doctors determine the best course of treatment for patients.

“Heart failure is a dreadful condition resulting from rising pressures inside the heart. We have been researching one of the most cutting-edge methods of flow assessment inside the heart called 4D flow MRI,” said lead researcher Pankaj Garg from UEA.

“In 4D flow MRI, we can look at the flow in three directions over time – the fourth dimension,” Garg said in a statement.

According to the research, published in the journal European Radiology Experimental, the best method to diagnose heart failure is by invasive assessment, which is not preferred as it has risks.

An ultrasound scan of the heart called echocardiography is routinely used to measure the peak velocity of blood flow through the mitral valve of the heart. However, this method can be unreliable, they said.

“This new technology is revolutionising how patients with heart disease are diagnosed. However, it takes up to 20 minutes to carry out a 4D flow MRI and we know that patients do not like having long MRI scans,” said Hosamadin Assadi, said PhD student at UEA.

The research team investigated the reliability of a new technique that uses super-fast methods to scan the flow in the heart, called Kat-ARC.

“We found that this halves the scanning time – and takes around eight minutes. We have also shown how this non-invasive imaging technique can measure the peak velocity of blood flow in the heart accurately and precisely,” Assadi said.

The team tested the new technology with 50 patients at two hospitals in Sheffield, UK. Patients with suspected heart failure were assessed using the new Kat-ARC 4D heart flow MRI.

The team hope their work could revolutionise the speed at which heart failure is diagnosed, benefitting hospitals and patients world-wide.

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