A new study has shown that Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans should be used to assess patients with suspected heart disease rather than standard tests.
Researchers at the University of Leeds studied 750 people over 5 years with suspected angina and at least one risk factor for heart disease.
MRI scans could be a reliable and non-invasive method of detecting heart disease
Patients underwent MRI scans, the results of which were compared to those using an angiogram. An angiogram is an invasive test where dye is injected directly into the heart’s arteries, and is a commonly used test for angina along with a non-invasive imaging test called SPECT.
The £1.3m study, published in The Lancet and backed by the British Heart Foundation, found that MRI scans were better at detecting the coronary heart disease than both SPECT and angiogram.
Not only do MRI scans detect heart disease more accurately, the scans are non-invasive, and do not use any form of radiation. In contrast, SPECT and angiogram tests both involve ionising radiation.
Coronary heart disease is caused when vital arteries serving the heart become narrowed or blocked by a build-up of fatty substances. The condition can lead to angina and increase a sufferer’s risk of a heart attack.
Dr John Greenwood, who led the study, said: "We have shown convincingly that of the options available to doctors in diagnosing coronary heart disease, MRI is better than the more commonly-used SPECT imaging test."
"As well as being more accurate, it has the advantage of not using any ionising radiation, sparing patients and health professionals from unnecessary exposure.”
At present, not all hospitals have the expertise to undertake such scans but these findings provide clear evidence that MRI should be more widely used in the future.
With private medical insurance, patients have access to the best diagnostic tests and scans available. If MRI scans are found to be the best method of testing for coronary heart disease, private hospitals may be the first to use them for this purpose.
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