4D Flow MRI Image

Research out of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, United Kingdom, has developed a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology that can produce 4D flow images of a heart in less than half the time of a traditional 4D MRI scan, which takes up to 20 minutes. The new scan technology takes only eight minutes and looks to revolutionize the way potential heart failure is diagnosed.

“The best method to diagnose heart failure is by invasive assessment, which is not preferred as it has risks,” says Dr. Pankaj Garg, lead researcher on the study, which was funded by the Wellcome Trust. He adds, while echocardiography is often used to measure peak velocity of blood flow with precision and accuracy, the method is unreliable. “In the 4D flow MRI, we can look at the flow in three directions over time.”

However, the time needed to carry out a 4D flow MRI traditionally takes up to 20 minutes, so, given patients aversions to MRI scans, the research team identified the need to shorten scan times. Working with General Electrics Healthcare in Germany, they investigated the reliability of Kat-ARC, a new fast-scan method. The results provide a precise image of heart valves and blood flow within the heart, which will help doctors better diagnose and decide a course of treatment for patients.

The research team tested the Kat-ARC 4D heart flow MRI at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in Norwich. Fifty cardiology patients at the hospital with suspected heart failure were first to have their hearts assessed using the new technology. A subsequent trial was performed at the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Sheffield, United Kingdom.

With these first successful trials behind them, the researchers are optimistic about the technology’s benefits, which they believe will change the speed of heart failure diagnosis in the future.

“This technology is revolutionizing how we assess heart disease, and our research paves the way for the super-fast 4D flow MRI scans by halving the scan time,” Dr. Garg says. “This will benefit hospitals and patients across the world.”