Wednesday 21 March 2018 02:45:14 PM

World First CT Heart Scanner At Ulster Hospital
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The world’s first dedicated CT heart scanner has been installed at the Ulster Hospital.

It can image the heart in less than a single heartbeat, taking just point two four of a second. The cardiologist can then definitively diagnose, or rule out, heart disease.

This would replace the often lengthy patient journey of visits to the chest pain clinic, tread mill tests and invasive angiograms where dye is pumped through the patient’s arteries.

A global first: Keith Miller, a patient at the Ulster Hospital, with Dr Patrick Donnelly, Consultant Cardiologist and Sarah Smythe, Radiographer.

The Ulster has a history of pioneering CT scanning for cardiac investigations but previously these have been done using the multi- purpose CT scanner. It cuts the heart into slices, on a virtual basis, and images each one but because this took place over multiple heart beats, it was not a definitive picture. The new bespoke scanner, the CardioGraphe,  gives a binary diagnosis – yes or no. Being able to diagnose  heart attack before it happens means significantly better outcomes.

Patients identified with serious cardiac problems can be sent for surgery or stenting immediately.  Those with early cardiac disease can be referred for the appropriate surgery or medication while those with potential to suffer a heart attack in the long term can be placed on a preventative pathway.

Consultant Cardiologist Dr Patrick Donnelly said:  “This scanner changes the rules and allows us to engage with the patients who need us most. The large number of people presenting with chest pain far outweighs our capacity.  The scanner removes diagnostic uncertainty and will allow us to evaluate patients quickly and in greater detail. In turn, this will free up resources for prevention pathways, with data indicating around 30% of heart attacks could be avoided.

At the Ulster Hospital, we want  to shift towards prevention and maintaining heart health rather than managing heart disease, and the development of this scanner is a major milestone along this path.

It was wonderful that GE Healthcare placed their confidence in us to allow this collaboration. CT is so fundamental to what we do, and our patients will now have equity of access to technology”

Alongside the new scanner,   51 out of 57 GPs in the South Eastern Trust area have now been trained in the use of heart monitors.  The monitors are issued to patients suffering from palpitations and they can trigger the recording when they feel an episode coming on. This captures the patient’s symptoms for a minute before and a minute after the palpitation, providing real time data.

CardioGraphe, the world’s  first dedicated cardiovascular computer tomography (CT) system, has been developed by Dublin-based  GE Healthcare and Arineta Ltd of Israel, in collaboration with the Ulster Hospital.

It creates a high quality 3D image of the coronaries, valves, chambers and myocardium in one heartbeat and can also perform CT angiography studies beyond the heart, including the aorta and carotids.  The breakthrough technology with its focused field of view means it is affordable and compact, and so accessible in the modern hospital setting. It also uses a low radiation dose.

Strangford MP Jim Shannon welcomed the introduction of the scanner to the Ulster Hospital and said: “The Ulster Hospital has a world class maternity ward and world class staff throughout every ward and department, I am pleased that they can now offer this world class heart CT scanner which is dedicated to the heart rather than piecing together slices with a regular CT. The first life changing diagnosis has been made for a man in Bangor. I have always maintained that we can boast the crème de la crème of medical expertise and now we need to bring the equipment up to scratch to allow the staff to do what they do best – save lives.

“This new technology is really innovation at its best and it is hoped that we can continue to provide the right equipment to the right people to save lives.”