Two Technologies Together Spot Clogged Vessels

Noninvasive cardiac MRI plus contrast enhancement worked better than angiography, researchers report

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THURSDAY, June 29, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Using two non-surgical scanning technologies together greatly improves doctors' ability to spot clogged coronary arteries, a new study shows.

Combining a new cardiac MRI technique called "stress first-pass perfusion MRI" with another method, the "delayed contrast enhancement technique," works better than the gold standard, invasive coronary angiography, according to a study in the July issue of the journal Radiology.

This non-surgical combination approach was 88 percent accurate in identifying clogged arteries, according to the study of 46 patients with chest pain.

"We have shown that cardiac MRI can be used reliably as an alternative to other more invasive detection techniques, due to its high diagnostic accuracy, its comprehensive evaluation of cardiac function, perfusion, and viability, and the lack of radiation exposure," study lead author Dr. Ricardo C. Cury, director of clinical cardiac MRI at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a prepared statement.

When using this combined technique, doctors first inject patients with a contrast agent and then conduct MRI scans at timed intervals in order to determine if there is heart muscle ischemia caused by coronary artery blockage. The test also reveals whether there has been damage (tissue death or scarring) that indicates a previous heart attack.

This combination method may help enhance clinical decision-making and guide disease management in certain situations, such as when doctors are deciding whether or not to proceed with invasive treatments such as cardiac catheterization or coronary artery bypass surgery, the study authors noted.

"In addition to diagnostic accuracy, cardiac MRI is safe. It can provide information about the anatomy, function, blood flow and damage that the heart has sustained. MRI can also be used to assess blood vessels in the body," Cury said.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about coronary artery disease.

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, June 27, 2006

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