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Research reveals MRI is superior to echocardiography in diagnosing heart failure

Findings from the study point out that MRI is a powerful tool for predicting patient outcomes, including fatality. Non-invasive echocardiography based on ultrasound is wrong in up to 50 per cent of cases.

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This invasive procedure involves a tube being placed in the jugular vein and it allows the surgeons to insert a biopsy tool into the heart to remove multiple samples of heart tissue. (File)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is superior to echocardiography in diagnosing heart failure, according to a new study from the University of East Anglia and the University of Sheffield published in the ‘European Heart Journal’.

Findings from the study point out that MRI is a powerful tool for predicting patient outcomes, including fatality. Non-invasive echocardiography based on ultrasound is wrong in up to 50 per cent of cases.

“An echocardiogram which is an ultrasound of the heart is not very accurate. We wanted to find out if MRI scans might offer a better alternative,” according to lead researcher Dr Pankaj Garg from UEA’s Norwich Medical School.

He further added that the best method to diagnose heart failure is by invasive assessment,which is not preferred as it has risks.
As part of the study, 835 patients received an invasive assessment and a heart MRI on the same day from the ASPIRE registry. The registry is a database of patients assessed at the Sheffield Pulmonary Vascular Disease Unit.

Dr Garg said, “We investigated if heart MRI can predict invasively measured left ventricular filling pressure. Once we had identified the key parameters – left atrial volume and left ventricular mass – we created an equation to non-invasively derive the pressure in the heart.”

“This simple equation can be applied in any centre around the world which does heart MRI. We also tested the equation in a separate group of patients and demonstrated its reliability. We showed that heart MRI is superior to Echocardiography in predicting pressure inside the heart. Almost 71 per cent of patients who had wrongly measured pressures by Echocardiography had correct pressures by heart MRI.”

“These findings will reduce the need for invasive assessment. This is not only cost-effective but also reduces risks to patients, as a heart MRI scan is a completely non-invasive test. We also showed that the results from heart MRIs were powerful tools to predict whether a patient would live or die.”

“This research was not possible without technical expertise at Norwich and Sheffield and also the rich haemodynamic data from the ASPIRE registry,” added Dr Garg.

Senior author Dr Andy Swift, a Consultant Radiologist at the University of Sheffield said, “This simple diagnostic equation is very clinically useful and will help doctors predict the pressure in the heart and diagnose heart failure.”

He concluded that Testing the use of the equation at other hospitals is the next step to assess the benefit to patients and the reduced need for invasive tests.

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