MRI scans best at finding heart disease

MRI scans best at finding heart disease

MRI scans are the best tool to use when it comes to identifying patients with chest pain or angina who are at a high risk of suffering from coronary heart disease, new research shows.

A study carried out at the University of Leeds analysed the effectiveness of MRI scans, which are a non-invasive procedure that does not use radiation, compared to SPECT, which uses ionising radiation, but is often a tool for diagnosing coronary heart disease.

Currently the world's leading cause of death, coronary heart disease causes nearly 70,000 deaths in the UK alone each year. The majority of these fatalities are the result of a heart attack, as the disease means essential arteries between the heart become blocked by fatty tissues. This can cause chest pain or angina, which can lead to a heart attack if left untreated.

Published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, the five-year research found that overall MRI was better overall at predicting serious events, such as a heart attack or even death, after chest pain.

Professor John Greenwood, from the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds and lead author of the study, said that although SPECT is currently more widely available than MRI, the use of MRI for a wide spectrum of diseases means that it will be much more readily available for heart disease investigation in coming years.

“The benefits of cardiac MRI are not limited to reducing exposure to ionising radiation. The non-invasive cardiac MRI test, which is not only more diagnostically accurate and cost effective for the NHS than SPECT, is also potentially better at forecasting the outcome of the disease," Professor Greenwood explained.

He added that the findings of the study could lead to changes in clinical guidelines and to the way doctors investigate chest pain due to suspected heart disease.

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