MRI is ‘more effective to detect heart problems’

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DOCTORS in Yorkshire have discovered that MRI scans could be more effective in assessing patients with suspected heart disease.

The £1.3m study led by experts at Leeds University could change the way patients are treated, potentially avoiding tests which are invasive and use radiation.

An estimated 2.6 million people in the UK have coronary heart disease at a cost to the NHS of £9 billion each year.

Exercise tests on a treadmill used in the past to confirm heart problems have been replaced by modern imaging tests including an angiogram – a test where dye is injected directly into arteries – or more commonly an alternative using SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography). Both use radiation.

A study published in the Lancet, involving 750 patients in Leeds, shows magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are a reliable way of detecting signs of significant heart disease. Experts believe the work could lead to a re-think of guidance on tests.

Researcher John Greenwood, who led work, said: “As well as being more accurate, it has the advantage of not using any ionising radiation, sparing patients and health professionals from unnecessary exposure.”

Prof Peter Weissberg, of the British Heart Foundation which funded the study, said: “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.”