Working with dogs and using the latest in imaging software and machinery, also known as a 64-slice CT scanner, Johns Hopkins heart specialists have developed a fast and accurate means of tracking blood that has been slowed down by narrowing of the coronary arteries. Researchers say it took them less than half the time of exercise stress tests and echocardiograms currently used to find early warning of vessels more likely to become blocked and cause heart attack.
The Hopkins team will present their initial findings Nov. 12 at the American Heart Association's annual Scientific Sessions in Chicago. Already, the Hopkins technique, in which patients are given a drug to stress their heart during the scan, is undergoing clinical testing. Results among 60 patients are expected within a year.
If the human trials prove equally successful, senior investigator Albert C. Lardo, Ph.D., an assistant professor at The Johns Hopkins University of School of Medicine and its Heart Institute, says the new scanner "could dramatically change the way we diagnose coronary disease in patients with initial symptoms of chest pain, by providing a safe, non-invasive and fast method to detect blood-flow problems in heart tissue.
"Because it takes less than 15 minutes to perform and does not require patients to be stabilized ahead of scanning, it could replace most other more time-consuming tests that help find blockages, including not only exercise stress testing and echocardiograms, but also positron electron tomography (PET) imaging or magnetic resonance imaging," he says.
"The new technique could also help eliminate many unnecessary, invasive catheterization procedures when there is no underlying blockage, or become a practical test to verify if treatments with drugs therapies, surgical bypass or stented arteries have worked to improve blood flow."