Date Posted: 14th March 2018
According to research by the British Heart Foundation, an estimated 121,000 people in Wales are living with coronary heart disease. The disease, which is caused by narrowing of the arteries, is the country’s single biggest killer, claiming the lives of more than one in seven men and almost one in 10 women.
Until recently, the most accurate way to diagnose narrowing and blockages in the arteries was through a coronary angiogram carried out in a hospital X-ray or radiology department. It is usually safe and painless, but as an invasive procedure it does come with some risks and a large proportion of patients who go for an angiogram don’t need further treatment, meaning that they have this invasive procedure unnecessarily.
HeartFlow is a computer-based diagnostic tool specifically designed to address this issue. It uses data collected during a standard CT scan to create a personalised, digital model of the arteries and uses computer algorithms to assess the impact that blockages have on blood flow. This allows consultants to determine whether obstructions within the coronary arteries are causing a significant blockage, or whether the narrowing is less critical and does not require intervention.
St Joseph’s Hospital in Newport is the first in Wales, and one of only a handful in the UK, to have access to this state-ofthe-art technology.
Dr James Cullen is a Consultant Cardiologist at St Joseph’s Hospital. He was involved in the introduction of the technology to patients as an alternative diagnostic tool. He said: “The HeartFlow Analysis is the only available technology that provides the certainty of an invasive test with the convenience of a noninvasive test in one platform.
“HeartFlow is also a cheaper alternative to coronary angiogram, meaning that it saves both time and money for patients and healthcare providers. This technology is leading the way in cardiac diagnosis and I expect to see it being adopted by more centres in the future, but it is fantastic to see St Joseph’s leading the way by being one of the first hospitals to offer it in the UK.”