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Every year, 17.9 million people die of cardiovascular disease (CVD) — a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels. According to estimates, this corresponds to 31% of all deaths worldwide. Cardiac imaging is an important tool for ensuring prompt, accurate diagnosis and subsequent treatment.
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease and is caused by a build-up of plaque in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical, as patients with CAD are at increased risk of potentially fatal complications such as heart attack and stroke.
Every successful treatment starts with the right diagnosis
Cardiac imaging – a subspecialty of diagnostic radiology – uses innovative procedures to help cardiologists and radiologists effectively diagnose heart disease, such as CAD. Prompt and accurate diagnosis allows doctors to make informed decisions and improves the quality of care for patients by enabling the care team to define an optimal therapy plan. Moreover, cardiac imaging can be used to monitor disease progression or a patient’s response to treatment, and to detect other illnesses.
There are several cardiac medical imaging modalities. In addition to X-rays and ultrasounds, cardiac radiologists use advanced imaging techniques such as cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) scans or coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA) to provide clear direction from diagnosis to care.
CMR, sometimes known as cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), is a medical imaging technology designed to assess the function and structure of the cardiovascular system in a non-invasive manner. The radiation-free procedure is performed in a scanner with a high magnetic field and radio waves.
CMR generates extremely high-resolution anatomical images of the heart chambers and also provides moving images to evaluate cardiac function. In most cases, the procedure involves injection of a gadolinium-based contrast agent during the scan to highlight the blood vessels and perfused areas on the images. This can help provide information about tissue blood supply, inflammation, and scarring.
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Coronary computed tomography angiography and cath lab
Computed tomography (CT) angiography images blood vessels using iodinated contrast agents injected into the venous bloodstream. CCTA uses CT technology to take images of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the muscle of a beating heart and to determine whether they are narrowed or blocked.
New technologies also allow CCTA to predict the negative effects of coronary artery stenoses on the heart muscle. CT Fractional Flow Reserve (CTFFR) is one of these leading technologies and allows the radiologist to assess the significance of a stenosis.
Cardiologists also use contrast agents in x-ray angiography for the visualization of coronary stenosis in the catheterization laboratory. Commonly referred to as a cath lab, this is an examination room in a hospital or clinic with diagnostic imaging equipment to visualize the arteries of the heart as well as its chambers and treat any stenosis or abnormality found. The arteries are visualized with iodinated x-ray contrast media.
The importance of ensuring patients are informed
Patients often experience a wide range of emotions prior to and during a cardiac imaging process. Informing patients about the benefits and risks of diagnostic procedures is key to empowering them to make a conscious therapy decision with their care team.
Therefore, cultivating better and more widespread understanding of how medical imaging is informing and benefitting clinical decisions throughout the continuum of care is crucial in paving the way for improved outcomes for patients.
Bayer’s diagnostic cardiac imaging options
Every treatment starts with the right diagnosis. Bayer’s radiology portfolio ranges from contrast media to devices that support radiologists in their mission to provide early diagnosis and targeted treatment to patients suffering from cardiovascular disease.