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NIH study shows MRI provides faster, more accurate way to diagnose heart attacks

Advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology can detect heart attack in emergency room patients with chest pain more accurately and faster than traditional methods, according to a new study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Published in the February 4 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, the findings suggest that more patients who are suffering a heart attack or who otherwise have severe blockages in their coronary arteries could receive treatment to reduce or prevent permanent damage to the heart if they are assessed with MRI. The article is available online at http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/01.CIR.0000047527.11221.29.

Researchers evaluated the ability of high-resolution MRI to detect acute coronary syndrome (heart attack or unstable angina) in emergency department patients with chest pain. MRI results were compared with three standard diagnostic tests: an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), blood enzyme test, and the TIMI risk score, which assesses the risk of complications or death in patients with chest pain based on a combination of several clinical characteristics. MRI detected all of the patients' heart attacks, including three in patients who had normal EKGs. In addition, MRI detected more patients with unstable angina than the other tests.

Of the more than 5 million patients who visit emergency departments with chest pain each year, only about 40 percent can be immediately diagnosed with heart attack using standard tests. The majority of patients must undergo a number of tests and further hospitalization for a conclusive diagnosis to be reached.

"This study lays the groundwork for what could mean a dramatic change in how heart attacks are diagnosed - and how rapidly patients receive treatment once they arrive at the hospital," said NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Len
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Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
301-496-4236
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
29-Jan-2003


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