New 'real time' MRI stress test pictures heart in motion

DALLAS, Oct. 12 -- A new type of stress test may soon offer doctors a safer and easier way to diagnose heart disease, researchers report today in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The new stress test, called fast cine magnetic resonance imaging or MRI, offers physicians an alternative for diagnosing coronary artery disease in patients who are not good candidates for standard stress tests, such as stress echocardiography.

"The technique will open a lot of doors," says W. Gregory Hundley, M.D., assistant professor of medicine in cardiology and radiology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and lead author of the study. "With this information doctors will be better able to determine the severity of a patient's heart disease, and decide on the most appropriate medical management."

In an accompanying editorial, Gerald M. Pohost, M.D., the Mary Gertrude Waters professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said that until now, MRI technology was geared toward organs that move very little, such as brains and bones. "In order to image the heart, it was necessary to synchronize the imaging with the heart's cycle so that images were required over numerous heartbeats in a 5-10 minute interval. The newest, most modern technology allows imaging of the heart in 'real time.' This is a major step in the evolution of MRI applications to the heart," he says.

"Perhaps the most important potential of MRI is that it could provide a very comprehensive evaluation of the heart, displaying the function, structure, blood flow, and coronary arteries," says Pohost. "Ultimately it should provide everything you need in one package."

Standard stress tests, such as treadmill exercise tests, can indicate how well an individual's heart handles increased physical exertion, and can help physicians find a blockage or other problem in the blood vessels of the heart. A thallium stress test uses a radioactiv

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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