09 April 2018
New technique to get jump on cardio issues
Patients suffering the early signs of heart failure could one day have their condition detected before they suffer symptoms, with the aim of catching it early enough to reverse.
Scientists say the new imaging technique currently being tested on Melbourne patients could help ease the epidemic of heart failure by picking up people at risk in the same way mammograms or cervical cancer screening works.
Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute director and cardiologist Professor Tom Marwick said patients are often only diagnosed with heart failure when they are develop symptoms like breathlessness or turn up to hospital with a crisis.
By this stage, he said heart failure was often inevitable and treatment responses were poorer.
“There has been some progress over the past 20 years, but the disease is still as malignant as many cancers,” Prof Marwick said.
“We want to identify people in the pre-symptomatic stage because we think disease is more likely to be reversible at that stage.”
Their study will involve using an echocardiogram, a non-invasive ultrasound, to measure the heart muscle’s ability to contract and relax.
Heart failure occurs when the muscle is so damaged it cannot function properly as a pump.
In the randomised control trial, the technique known as strain imaging, will measure the function of the left ventricle, one of the pumping chambers of the heart.
It will be combined with clinical scores to identify ‘at-risk’ patients.
The study aims to determine if there are any benefits to screening high risk patients and treating them earlier with medication.
Victorian grandmother Lorraine Dixon is taking part in the study because she wants to be proactive about her health.
She was relieved when her echocardiogram showed she did not have early signs of heart failure.
“Normally you only get this type of test when your doctor thinks there is something wrong with your heart, but if there’s a problem, I’d prefer to pick it up as early as possible,” Mrs Dixon said
A recent Mary MacKillop Institute of Health Research report found more than 500,000 Australians currently live with heart failure and that figure is expected to rise rapidly due to the ageing population.
The Vic-ELF study is still recruiting participants located in Melbourne’s west aged 65 and over who have: diabetes, high blood pressure, or who are overweight or obese.
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