CONTACT: MICHAEL SONDERGARD
8 John Pappajohn Pavilion
Iowa City IA 52242
University of Iowa heart specialists using new leading-edge cardiac
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC)
recently became one of 13 medical centers worldwide using a new, vastly
improved imaging system for diagnosing patients with heart disease.
Called cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging (CVMRI), the new technology
could revolutionize cardiology worldwide within a decade, said Michael
Vannier, M.D., UI professor and head of radiology and an internationally
recognized expert in advanced imaging technologies.
"Iowans are very fortunate," Vannier said. "No other
medical center in Iowa or its contiguous states has this system available
for use and development."
CVMRI systems use a combination of advanced magnets and radio wave technology
to produce real-time images of the human body (a patient's beating heart,
for instance) that have the clarity of anatomy textbook illustrations.
The advanced new system being evaluated by heart specialists at the
UI was developed by General Electric Medical Systems, a leading MRI manufacturer.
Kevin King, general manager of Global CVMRI for GE Medical Systems, said
the scanner enables clinicians at a few, select heart centers to image
the heart in real-time. Images can be acquired, reconstructed, manipulated
and viewed at rates as high as 15 frames per second, he said.
Before gaining full clinical acceptance, the system must undergo further
refinements and trials coordinated by GE Medical Systems and imaging experts
at 13 centers in the U.S. and Europe. In addition to the UI, these include
the National Institutes of Health, Stanford University Medical Center,
and Johns Hopkins University.
"MRI has actually been around since the early 1980s, when it was
hailed as one of the greatest medical imaging breakthroughs since x-rays,"
Vannier said. "But early use was limited to patients with neurological
and musculoskeletal diseases. Its acceptance in the field of heart disease
has been much slower."
The difficulty engineers faced in imaging the heart's rapid regular
movements combined with irregular, secondary motion that occurs when the
patient breathes underscored this reluctance, he said. While early efforts
to image the heart and coronary vessels with MRI were not unqualified successes,
the obvious potential of MRI in cardiac disease fueled a vigorous research
"With appropriate engineering developments, this new system will
in a single image obtain all of the information we require for diagnosing
patients with heart problems," Vannier said. Current practice requires
one or more noninvasive diagnostic tests to detect coronary artery disease,
often with inconclusive results.
"Obviously, if we can obtain conclusive evidence in a single test,
it not only improves the diagnosis but also saves time, lowers patient
risk and reduces costs," Vannier said. "Those are the anticipated
benefits of this powerful new CVMRI system. We've been very impressed by
what we've seen so far."
Within 10 years, Vannier added, virtually all major hospitals and cardiac
centers will likely have a dedicated cardiovascular MRI scanner. Meanwhile,
radiologists, cardiologists, biomedical engineers, and medical physicists
at the UI are evaluating the new system in several research protocols.
According to the American Heart Association, more than 65 million people
have some form of cardiovascular or peripheral vascular disease. Almost
5.5 million Americans have a history of heart attack, angina, or both,
and 1.5 million new incidents will be reported this year. Over one million
people die every year from cardiovascular disease, representing nearly
50 percent of all deaths in the U.S., more than all other diseases combined.