New imaging technique may enhance heart transplants

13 July 2012

A new type of non-invasive imaging technique may help to determine whether children who have had heart transplants are showing early signs of rejection, experts claim.

The new method is described online in the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation and was developed by cardiologists at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri.

According to the specialists, the technique, known as a coronary angiogram, could reduce the need for these patients to undergo invasive imaging tests every one to two years, as is currently standard.

It works by inserting a catheter into a blood vessel and injecting a dye to look for dangerous plaque on the walls of arteries feeding blood to the heart, with any build-up indicating coronary artery disease and a sign that the body may be rejecting the new heart.

As paediatric heart transplant patients have a significant risk of developing coronary artery disease, doctors monitor their arteries on a regular basis, but recurring angiograms can become problematic.

Dr Charles E Canter, professor of paediatrics at the Washington University School of Medicine, said results of the pilot study were "very promising" and revealed that more patients will now be analysed to determine the efficacy of the technique on a broader scale.

"We're in the process of developing a bigger study to confirm and refine the results. I think eventually this could be used as a screening technique, not so much to eliminate, but to reduce the number of angiograms," he concluded.

Posted by Philip Briggs


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