A team of researchers has developed a novel artificial intelligence (AI) technique for heart imaging that could improve care for patients and, could enable doctors to examine patients’ hearts for scar tissue while eliminating the need for contrast injections required for traditional cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging (CMR). The team behind the technology is from UVA Health in Virginia, U.S. They are said to have compared the AI approach, known as Virtual Native Enhancement (VNE), with contrast-enhanced CMR scans now used to monitor hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the most common genetic heart condition.
Doctors will now be able to easily and quickly image the heart with the new AI technique from UVA Health
The researcher in their study deduced that VNE produced higher-quality images and better-captured evidence of scar in the heart, all without injecting the standard contrast agent required for CMR.
Christopher Kramer, the chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at UVA Health said that this is a potentially important advance, especially if it can be expanded to other patient groups. He added that being able to identify scars in the heart is an important contributor to progression to heart failure and sudden cardiac death, without contrast, would be highly significant.
The researcher concluded that the CMR scans would be done without contrast, saving cost and any risk, albeit low, from the contrast agent.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common inheritable heart disease and the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes. It causes the heart muscle to thicken and stiffen, reducing its ability to pump blood and requiring close monitoring by doctors.
However, this new VNE technology will allow doctors to image the heart more often and more quickly. It also may help doctors detect subtle changes in the heart earlier, though more testing is needed to confirm that.
Also, according to the team, the new technology would benefit patients who are allergic to the contrast agent injected for CMR, as well as patients with severely failing kidneys, a group that avoids the use of the agent.