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Doctors explore new ways to diagnose
by Mary Helen
Advancing new uses of technology they helped develop, MUSC radiologists
and cardiologists are exploring how computed tomographic (CT) scans can
now detect vascular blockages.
Dr. Joseph Schoepf
explains to Kathleen Ellis of Business Development and Marketing
Services the new technique he helped develop that helps detect blocked
and impaired blood flow in the heart.
Using their Dual Source CT scanner, MUSC physicians have developed a
new means to analyze how blood flows in the heart in ways that had
traditionally relied upon invasive heart catheterization, nuclear
medicine and costly magnetic resonance. The technique enables detection
of blocked arteries and narrowing of the blood vessels in the heart, as
well as poor blood flow in the heart muscle.
The report on the new technique that uses X-ray spectrometry based on
CT technology was published in the March issue of the American Heart
Association’s Journal “Circulation,” authored by MUSC post doc Balazs
Ruzsics, M.D, Ph.D., and co-authored by Heart & Vascular’s U.
Joseph Schoepf, M.D., and Eric R. Powers, M.D.
“We are the first in the world to use this technology in a manner that
also uses radiation doses that are lower than with the regular Dual
Source CT scan,” Schoepf said.
While the CT scan “dissects” the heart into thin layers, enabling
doctors to detect diseased vessels and valves, blood flow could not be
detected, Schoepf said. So researchers added two X-ray spectrums, each
emitting varying degrees of energy, “to gain static and dynamic images
of the coronary arteries and the heart muscle,” he said. “On top of
that, the use of varying energy levels enables us to see the
distribution of the blood in the heart.”
By altering the energy levels of the spectra, radiation doses are kept
low, he added.
The device also enables researchers to detect a blockage, to see what
the flow is beyond that point, and detect the exact location of
the vascular damage.
“We are able to pick up with great clarity any diseased areas of the
heart by creating a map of the blood circulating in the heart muscle,”
Schoepf said. “We do this by injecting iodine into the patient, and we
have determined that where you don’t read iodine in the heart muscle,
there is no blood flow.”
For years MUSC has been at the forefront of implementing and refining
the latest, most advanced imaging technologies for non-invasively
diagnosing heart disease.
If the initial experiences at MUSC are confirmed in larger studies, the
technology would enable diagnosing all aspects of heart disease based
on a single test that lasts about 15 seconds, with considerable
cost-savings. It also would enable greater convenience and reduced
radiation exposure for patients, Schoepf said.
In addition to diagnosing the heart, the CT scan also allows doctors to
check for other diseases that may be lurking in the lungs or the chest
wall, he said.
In their research, the Heart & Vascular Center physicians will
systematically compare their new technique to the conventional methods
for detecting decreased blood supply in the heart muscle.
Friday, March 14, 2008
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