Every year, 28,000 people in Sweden suffer from acute heart attacks. Half of them don’t experience any prior symptoms, and one quarter of them die within a month. It doesn’t need to be this way, according to Anders Persson, researcher and head of division at the Centre for Medical Image Science and Visualization (CMIV). Together with 130 colleagues, he has developed a method for fast, accurate diagnosis of cardiovascular disease.
“We know how these diseases can be predicted in a way that forgoes unnecessary examination and allows more people to survive. Finding those who need the treatment, and also knowing exactly what kind of treatment they need – that is our vision. It will prevent a lot of suffering and save a lot of money”, says Anders Persson.
The interface between medicine and technology
This solution has been developed at the interface of medicine and technology, and involves a completely new way of examining tissue. In a unique technique using computed tomography, a picture of a single heartbeat is taken, using a low dose of radiation but with high resolution. The data in the picture is then visualised using a five metre-tall, beating 3D picture of the patient’s heart and coronary artery. The picture, together with the patient’s genetic material and data from the world’s most comprehensive survey of heart disease patients, can help in the future with giving the necessary information for assessing a patient’s state, and effectively predicting future risks. Who is healthy, who needs an operation, who needs anticoagulants, how should mechanical valves be placed to give optimal effect? A picture taken in just a few milliseconds gives answers that bring peace of mind to both doctors and their patients.
“It’s a completely new area. And we’re the only ones working at this interface between technology and medicine. We’re the only ones who have the tools to master it”, says Anders Persson. Research at CMIV, which is based at Linköping’s hospital, is already benefitting patients. Clinical work has been done at CMIV since 2003, and the methods for coronary artery imaging that have been developed there have since 2020 been included in Europe-wide guidelines for examining the heart.
Prevent one of the most common causes of death!
The next step for Anders and his research team is to get doctors around the world to use the CMIV’s methods to revolutionise their and their patients’ lives. However, the technology needs to be further developed in order to automate it and make it easier to use. Within the space of a few years, it is hoped that just a simple heart examination will allow doctors to assess the condition of a patient’s heart and give the patient individualised advice in real time about how to avoid Sudden Cardiac Death.
“The benefit to patients from our research is enormous! I’m driven by the desire to do something good for individuals, and I want to help set new standards in treating coronary artery diseases. But our research is expensive. It’s crucial that we get help from others in the fight against one of the most common causes of death”, says Anders Persson.
The benefit to patients is enormous