University team develop new 'faster' detection system for ischemic heart disease

Published: 22 March 2006 at 11:28

Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University have developed a new medical imaging system which advances the accuracy of the diagnosis of coronary heart disease. News of this revolutionary new system is being released just a week after medical experts revealed that a cholesterol-reducing drug could be used to reverse heart disease.

The system, for the diagnosis of critically ill patients in Coronary Care Units, Intensive Care Units and A&E departments, has been developed by Professor Claudio Zizzo of the University’s Faculty of Science and Technology and Dr Aimen Hassani, Consultant Anaethetist at Broomfield  Hospital in Chelmsford. It uses real-time electrocardiogram (ECG) data for the automatic detection of ischaemia (a decrease in blood supply to the heart, caused by constriction or obstruction of the blood vessels) and acute myocardial infarction (the death of a section of the tissues in the heart, also known as heart attack).

Professor Zizzo explained:

“The ECG is one of the main pillars in the diagnosis of life-threatening heart conditions. It displays electrical changes in the heart and provides information either on printouts or on a monitor display. Computer-assisted ischemia diagnosis is an emerging technology which helps doctors make a timely patient diagnosis but it requires specialist knowledge to interpret results. The new imaging system creates an image of the heart highlighting any areas with ischemia thus allowing doctors to make faster and more accurate diagnosis, which is why it is such an exciting news.”

“Faster diagnosis combined with more effective treatment will mean more patients will be saved and that is more good news for people who are at risk from heart disease.”

In 2002, cardiovascular disease (CVD) caused 39% of deaths, and killed just under 238,000 people in the UK.  CVD accounts for nearly two million deaths in Europe each year.

The new detection system has been developed by the team with two objectives: to automate ischaemia’s diagnosis and to create 3-D images of the heart, showing real-time changes. During an initial evaluation of the new equipment, junior doctors increased significantly their ECG proficiency in the diagnosis of ischaemia or acute myocardial infarction as well as their certainty of diagnosis, while the time to conduct the diagnosis fell by one-third.

Dr Aimen Hassani adds:

“This new imaging system is going to make a real difference to the many patients whose condition is potentially life threatening. Identifying early a decrease in the blood supply to the heart is vital in the prevention of a heart attack.”

“In this new era of invasive cardiology, this device will offer clinicians a vital opportunity to start treatment early, prevent death or severe illness, and reduce the pressure on hospitals by reducing the length of patient stay and reducing the costs of treatment.”

This university’s research team project is contributing directly to the Department of Health’s national priorities of coronary heart disease.  Clinical trials of the new medical imaging system are due to start in April at Broomfield Hospital with the support of Dr Delphine Turner (Consultant Cardiologist, Broomfield Hospital). 

Chelmsford Medical Education and Research Trust (CMERT) and the Mid Essex Hospital Trust (MEHT) have awarded £50,000 to help fund this ongoing research project.