Technology

3D technology could see heart disease patients diagnosed and treated five times faster

Life-threatening coronary heart disease could be diagnosed and treated five times faster with the help of new 3D technology.

The technology turns a CT scan of the heart into a 3D image, which allows doctors to diagnose the problem in just 20 minutes, NHS England said.

Previously, diagnoses would require a more invasive and time-consuming angiogram in hospital.

Some 100,000 people will be able to use the new technology – called HeartFlow – over the next three years and it could mean they are seen, diagnosed and treated around five times faster.

Treatment includes surgery, medication, or having a stent fitted, while those with less serious conditions can get lifestyle advice or medication to lower cholesterol.

HeartFlow was launched last month and is part of an NHS plan to cut the number of heart attacks and strokes by 150,000.

Matt Whitty, director of innovation and life sciences for NHS England, said HeartFlow had been a “huge success” in clinical trials and would help “tens of thousands of people a year receive quick diagnosis and treatment and ultimately save lives”.

NHS medical director Stephen Powis said: “The NHS Long Term Plan committed to cutting strokes, heart attacks and other major killers as well as ensuring patients would benefit from cutting-edge therapies and techniques, and HeartFlow is just the latest example of that.

“By rapidly improving the rate we diagnose and treat those with a heart condition we will save thousands of lives and ensure as well as delivering the most successful vaccination programme in health service history, the NHS is able to deliver routine services even quicker than before the pandemic.”

Dr Derek Connolly, consultant interventional cardiologist at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, said the technology had had a “meaningful impact at our hospitals, improving the diagnosis and treatment of the leading cause of death”.

He said: “For every five patients who have a cardiac CT and a HeartFlow analysis, four patients go home knowing they don’t need anything else.

“Half of those patients will be on cholesterol tablets because they have early disease, and the other half will have normal coronary arteries.”

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This will benefit patients and the NHS by preventing unnecessary admissions for angiograms and quickly providing information that allows patients to be put on the best treatment pathway for their condition.

“This is particularly important at a time when we are dealing with the challenges that COVID-19 has caused to the delivery of normal care to patients with heart and circulatory diseases.”

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