Approximately two percent of patients with a heart attack are discharged home from the emergency department without the heart attack being detected and treated. In addition, many patients with unstable angina are sent home without diagnosis; they may progress to a heart attack after discharge or require urgent medical therapy soon thereafter. Patients with undetected acute coronary syndrome are twice as likely to die as those whose condition is detected and treated. In the study, three of the patients were not characterized as having acute coronary syndrome until their follow-up visit.
"MRI provides us with additional and more precise information than is currently accessible from other imaging methods, such as echocardiography, coronary angiography, and positron emission tomography," added Dr. Robert S. Balaban, scientific director of the NHLBI Laboratory Research Program, and a co-author of the paper. "MRI technology could help us get another 20 percent of patients with acute coronary syndrome to life-saving treatment more quickly, and reduce the number of patients spending hours in the hospital for long-term EKG and enzyme monitoring."
Balaban estimates that MRI to detect acute coronary syndrome in the emergency department could be used in hospitals nationwide within a few years. Many U.S. hospitals currently have equipment that could be upgraded for this use.
"This study represents a shift of moving technology directly from the basic science laboratory to the clinical setting," added Balaban. "Working with physicists and engineers, we hope to further develop MRI to provide even more precise imaging and
Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute