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MRI scan 'better' for assessing heart patients


A magnetic resonance imaging scan for coronary heart disease is better than the most commonly-used alternative, a major UK trial has shown.

The findings could change the way that people with suspected heart disease are assessed, potentially avoiding the need for tests that are invasive or use ionising radiation.

Results from the British Heart Foundation funded study have been published online in the Lancet.

Full results of the study,  the (BHF), are published online today by the Lancet medical journal.

Currently patients with suspected angina are most likely to have either an angiogram or a SPECT test, both of which involve ionising radiation.

However, a five-year study by Leeds University researchers, involving 752 patients, has now shown that an MRI scan is a reliable way of detecting signs of significant CHD.

The researchers also showed that MRI was better than SPECT at diagnosing CHD and at ruling out heart disease in patients who did not have the condition.

It is the first time that MRI has been compared head-to-head against the “gold standard” tests for CHD in such a large group of patients.

Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This research shows that a full MRI scan is better than the most commonly used alternative – a SPECT scan using a radioactive tracer.

“MRI has the additional advantage that it doesn’t involve radiation. At present, not all hospitals have the expertise to undertake such scans but these findings provide clear evidence that MRI should be more widely used in the future.”


Greenwood et al. CE-MARC: A Prospective Evaluation of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance and Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography in Coronary Heart Disease. The Lancet DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)61335-4


Readers' comments (2)

  • George Kuchanny

    Neurosurgeons please note! MRI is probably better than angiogram for intracranial events like subarachnoid haemorrhage - and unlikely to result in an iatrogenic event.

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  • many patients who would benefit from MRIs for a wide range of diagnoses instead of more invasive tests are denied them because of the costs involved!

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