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Cardiac MRI detects thinned heart muscle previously deemed unsalvageable

ORLANDO, FLA. - Duke University Medical Center researchers have used cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to demonstrate that heart muscle that had been "thinned" by a heart attack could indeed be "saved" by restoring blood flow to the affected region.

In the past, physicians would typically write off such thinned heart tissue as unsalvageable and would not pursue revascularization therapy with coronary artery bypass surgery or angioplasty. However, the Duke researchers said that the cardiac MRI allows them to visualize the beating heart with a precision and specificity that conventional methods cannot match.

Although their study was based on a small sample of heart patients seen at Duke University and Northwestern University, Chicago, the researchers believe that as cardiac MRI is used more routinely in the imaging of the heart, it could become the new "gold standard" for determining heart muscle that while damaged, is still viable given appropriate treatment.

The results of the Duke study were presented today (Nov. 12, 2003) at the 76th annual scientific session of the American Heart Association, by cardiologist Dipan Shah, M.D., consulting assistant professor of medicine at Duke.

"Most cardiologists are beginning to recognize that MRI is becoming the gold standard for viability testing, because with its extremely high spatial resolution, it can detect details not seen before," Shah said. "The ability to differentiate between living and dead cells makes MRI a more direct measure of tissue viability than any other method."

During a cardiac MRI examination, which is non-invasive and radiation-free, a patient is guided through the cavity of a large doughnut-shaped magnet. The magnet causes hydrogen nuclei in cells to align, and when perturbed by radio waves, they give off characteristic signals, which are then converted by computers into three-dimensional images of the heart and its structures. While MRI technology itself i
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Contact: Richard Merritt
merri006@mc.duke.edu
919-684-4148
Duke University Medical Center
12-Nov-2003


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