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Heart scan offers possibility of non-invasive diagnosis

Published on 13/07/17 at 03:44pm

Scientists from the University of Oxford have developed a heart scan that can identify inflammation around arteries that can suggest the increased likelihood of a heart attack. The possibility of the scan being available to those at a higher risk could then be helpful in determining whether they required medication to manage this danger.

The scan works by scanning the fatty deposits next to the heart’s arteries. The fat reacts to any inflammation in the surrounding the area and begins to break down. This can lead to the fat coming loose to cause a clog in the artery, leading to cardiac arrest. The scan is able to differentiate between those with a healthy heart and those that are experiencing inflammation to the area.

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer worldwide, with 100,000 people dying from a heart attack or stroke causes by the aforementioned rupture in the fatty deposit in the UK alone.

Professor Metin Avkiran, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation who part-funded the study, said: Discovering which plaques are likely to rupture, so people can be treated before such a devastating event strikes, is a major objective of current research. This new method, based on the imaging of cells surrounding arteries, could allow doctors to assess fatty plaques by a non-invasive scan and to see how they change with disease progression or treatment. If the technique lives up to its promise in larger trials in patients, it could lead to more effective treatment to avoid a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke.”

As mentioned by Avkiran, the initial study had 726 participants and the aim is to broaden the trial to be conducted with 2,000 participants. The further trial will report its findings in 2018.

The University of Oxford has already applied to patent its method of CT image analysis and has created a company, Caristo Diagnostics, to commercialise the technology.

One of the major hurdles the company will have to face is how to improve the technology to overcome the time it takes to perform the scan and the equipment needed for that. It currently takes the team 45 minutes to perform a full scan, with specific equipment and an expert behind this to effectively perform the scan.

Ben Hargreaves

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