Cardiology Roundup: Advancements in Imaging


As cardiology evolves, less invasive imaging and treatment is becoming just as effective, if not more so, than more invasive options. It’s a welcome development: The more patients who can avoid surgical intervention and its accompanying complications, the better.

New developments in imaging technology hold the promise of capturing more data, more quickly, with fewer side effects for the patient. This month’s cardiology roundup takes a look at the state of the art, and what’s just around the corner. Read on to explore advances in 3D printing, 3D imaging, ultrasound, and more.

1. 3D Printed Models Could Transform Heart Valve Replacements
For transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) patients, getting the right fit on the prosthetic valve is vital. An incorrectly-sized valve can lead to paravalvular leakage, increasing the risk of endocarditis and heart failure.

A new study from the Piedmont Heart Institute in Atlanta, GA seeks to help patients find just the right fit by using 3D printing to model patient’s valve structures. These elaborate, anatomically precise models can then be used to test valves in different sizes and from different manufacturers to find the one least likely to leak.

The researchers say their results are encouraging, indicating that this type of modeling could improve care for TAVR patients.

2. 3D Vascular Ultrasound Better Estimates Cardiovascular Risk
Researchers at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, NY, have successfully used three-dimensional vascular ultrasound (3DVUS) to augment cardiovascular risk profiling. The research team used 3DVUS to quantify the amount of plaque in carotid and femoral arteries in nearly 4,000 test subjects.

The team discovered that men tend to have a higher plaque burden than women, that femoral plaque burden was higher compared to the carotid territory, and that increasing age was also a factor.

3DVUS is still in the research and development stage, but it appears to be superior at quantifying atherosclerotic plaque volume compared to 2-dimensional techniques, is radiation free, and may be more cost-effective.

3. New PET-CT Scan Improves Detection in Rare Cardiac Condition
Historically, PET-CT scans have been used to diagnose cardiac sarcoidosis. But these scans often yield difficult to interpret or unclear results, which can lead to false negatives. A new technique developed at the University of Illinois in Chicago has produced much clearer images, combining the PET-CT scan with a 72-hour high-fat, low-sugar diet preparation period before images are taken.

Researchers using the new technique were able to investigate how cardiac sarcoidosis relates to sarcoidosis throughout the body, to determine if patients evaluated for cardiac sarcoidosis would benefit from thorough body imaging.

Their research found that, in 188 patients, 20 scans were positive for cardiac sarcoidosis, and 40 percent of those had sarcoidosis in other parts of the body. The research team concluded that more extensive scans could be beneficial for a significant number of patients.

4. Ultrafast Ultrasound Tackles Cardiac Imaging
Tracking and measuring the electrical signals that activate cardiac cells is crucial for understanding heart function and identifying arrhythmia. A new type of acoustoelectric imaging may be able to map cardiac activation more quickly and effectively than existing methods in a non-invasive fashion.

Researchers at Institut Langevin have built a prototype of an ultrafast acoustoelectric imaging system. The compact, portable device can map time-varying currents in real time, as demonstrated using electrodes in a saline pool.

The researchers say they have used the scanner in vivo with promising results, and are planning to upgrade the system to support 3D imaging as well.

5. A Nonsurgical Procedure for Single-Ventricle Congenital Heart Disease
A first-in-human trial appears to be successful for a closed-chest, catheter-only alternative to a Glenn shunt for improving pulmonary blood flow. The procedure, reports MedPage Today, “uses transcatheter electro-wire perforation to cross unoperated or naive intact blood vessel walls and stents to connect adjacent large blood vessels.”

The researchers say the procedure is indicated for adult patients who need a one-and-a-half ventricle repair, and are currently developing smaller devices that could be used for children.

As cardiac imaging techniques continue to develop, the potential for non-invasive diagnosis and treatment continues to improve. The advances in this article — and hundreds more currently being researched — will help cardiologists provide the best level of care for each patient, while minimizing the risks associated with invasive intervention.

To learn more about the latest developments in diagnostic imaging from experts in the field, download Advancements in Diagnostic Imaging: Past Milestones to Future Possibilities.

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