A new method called cardiac magnetic resonance can not only diagnose heart disease, but can also predict which cases are potentially fatal, suggests new research.
The study showed that mortality prediction is a key requirement for the technology to be used more widely.
Furthermore, the results suggest that cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (CMR) has the potential to be a non-invasive and non-toxic alternative to stress echocardiograms, catheterizations and nuclear stress exams to identify the severity of coronary heart disease.
"We have known for a long time that CMR is effective in the diagnosis of coronary artery disease, but it is not yet commonly used and represents less than one percent of the stress tests used in this country," said senior author Robert Judd, co-director of the Duke Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Center in the United States.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from over 9,000 patients who underwent CMR.
The results, published on JAMA Cardiology, showed that for patients with no history of heart disease and low risk based on traditional clinical criteria, those with an abnormal CMR scan were 3.4 times more likely to die than patients with a normal scan CMR.
For the entire patient population, the team found a strong association between abnormal stress CMR and mortality, even after age, gender, and cardiac risk factors.
While the non-invasive cardiac stress test is a milestone in the clinical management of patients with known or suspected coronary heart disease, CMR works just as well or better than other tests to identify the movement of the heart wall, cell death and the presence of low blood flow, the study said.
Furthermore, the technology requires no radiation exposure, which is essential in nuclear stress tests.
"With the results of this study suggesting that CMR stress is effective in predicting mortality, we provide a solid foundation for a head-to-head study between CMR stress and other modalities," noted Judd.
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