Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in England have developed cutting-edge technology to diagnose patients with heart failure in record time. The state-of-the-art technology uses MRI to create detailed 4D flow images of the heart.

But unlike a standard MRI scan, which can take up to 20 minutes or more, the new 4D heart MRI scan takes just eight minutes. The results provide a precise image of the heart valves and blood flow inside the heart, helping physicians determine the best course of treatment for patients. The study was published recently in the journal European Radiology Experimental.

Cardiology patients at the Egnald-based Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) were the first to trial the new technology. And the team hope their work could revolutionize the speed at which heart failure is diagnosed, benefitting hospitals and patients worldwide.

Lead researcher Pankaj Garg, PhD, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School and an honorary consultant cardiologist at NNUH, says: “Heart failure is a dreadful condition resulting from rising pressures inside the heart. 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,” Garg adds. “However, this method can be unreliable. We have been researching one of the most cutting-edge methods of flow assessment inside the heart called 4D flow MRI. In 4D flow MRI, we can look at the flow in three directions over time—the fourth dimension.”

PhD student Hosamadin Assadi, also from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, says: This new technology is revolutionizing 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. So, we collaborated with GE Healthcare to investigate the reliability of a new technique that uses super-fast methods to scan the flow in the heart, called Kat-ARC.”

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