Very Early Heart Disease May Be Detected With New Technique
June 12, 2000 -- A technique that's been used to look at blood flow in the
heart since the mid-1980s is now being used in a new way that may help pinpoint
very early heart disease, says a paper in the current issue of the journal
Circulation, published by the American Heart Association.
The technique is called phase contrast magnetic resonance imaging (PC-MR),
and it was used to look at the main blood vessel in the heart. "With this
approach, we are able to assess the blood supply to the heart muscle and assess
how well the blood vessels of the heart function," says Juerg Schwitter,
MD, in a press release. Schwitter is assistant professor of cardiology at
University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, and the study's lead
"[The new test] eliminates the need for two tests, which would result in
time savings, although the technique itself may be more expensive," says
William Parmley, MD, also one of the study's authors. Parmley is professor of
medicine at the University of California at San Francisco.
The paper reports results of using PC-MR in 16 healthy volunteers with no
heart disease and in nine heart transplant recipients. The technique was
compared with another imaging technique, PET scanning, to assess its accuracy.
Results indicate that the two techniques compare favorably, but PC-MR is able
to provide additional information about actual heart function.
"I think this technique will prove to be a valuable research tool in
developing new medications to prevent the development of coronary artery
[heart] disease," Schwitter says.
William Herzog, MD, associate professor of cardiology at the University of
Maryland School of Medicine, reviewed the paper for WebMD. "While very
interesting from a research standpoint, there just isn't any justification for
using such a technique in large populations, so its application is quite
limited," he says.
Herzog believes the technique might one day provide early clues to heart
disease, but says, "there remains no substitute for a good history and
- An imaging technique called phase contrast magnetic resonance imaging
(PC-MR) may be an effective way to detect very early heart disease.
- In a recent study, PC-MR was able to provide more information about heart
function when compared to another imaging technique called PET scanning.
- One expert says the new technique is interesting for research projects, but
may not be beneficial to the general population.