International Day of Radiology

08 November 2018

The 8th of November 2018 marks the anniversary of the discovery, by Wilhelm Conrad Rӧntgen, of the X-Ray in 1895. This is now celebrated annually as the International Day of Radiology and this year’s celebrations focus on the fast-growing sub-speciality of radiology, cardiac imaging. The World Health Organisation identifies cardiovascular diseases as the leading cause of death worldwide. It is therefore apparent that cardiac imaging could be a huge lifesaver if it is exploited effectively to diagnose and treat cardiac diseases. This blog will explore some of the recent developments in this field.

Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides unique analytical difficulties. One of the central assumptions used in interpreting MRI scans is that the patient is not moving while the scan takes place, however, scanning the heart requires images of a continuously moving organ to be taken. One way to overcome this problem has traditionally been to synchronise the image acquisition with the patient’s heartbeat. However, a recently developed method of analysing MRI scans (US20180289281) enables improved imaging of moving organs, and even enables the determination of the orientation and function of a foetus’ heart while the foetus is moving around within its mother’s womb.

Cardiac computed tomography (CT) angiography is used to visualise blood vessels in a patient’s body and relies on the injection of a contrast agent into the bloodstream to enhance the images. However, both bone and contrast enhanced blood vessels can appear similar in CT scans, making analysis of aneurisms and calcification in blood vessels difficult. To circumvent this problem, a computer processing method (US10079071) has now been developed that automatically removes bones from the images. This allows clearer images to be obtained and hopefully, further improves the diagnosis of cardiovascular disease.

The high incidence of cardiovascular disease means that the number of cardiac electronic devices, such as pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators, fitted each year is constantly on the rise. However, with more people than ever relying on these lifesaving devices, they increasingly need to be compatible with MRI scanners. Fortunately, MRI scanner compatible pacemakers have now been developed (for example, as described in US20110077708), meaning that MRI scans are no longer ruled out as an investigational tool for those relying on these devices to keep them alive.

The prevalence of cardiovascular diseases means that the need for specialist cardiac imaging will likely continue to increase. As with many diseases, early intervention improves outcomes, and perhaps some of these developments will allow improved diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases worldwide. Even our wearable fitness trackers reportedly may soon be able to predict an individual’s risk of developing heart disease, allowing even earlier intervention by individuals and health professionals. Perhaps eventually these new technologies and innovations will mean that cardiovascular disease will be removed from the top of the leaderboard as the world’s biggest killer.

Rachel McGlue

Rachel McGlue

Patent Attorney

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