A UK technology designed to scan patients for signs of heart disease quickly and non-invasively is to undergo clinical trials in the US, following clearance by the Food and Drug Administration.
The Vitalscan device, which is already two-thirds of the way through a clinical trial in four UK hospitals, will now be tested in a number of emergency departments in the US.
In the UK, over five per cent of visits to accident and emergency departments, and up to 40 per cent of emergency admissions, are the result of chest pain.
While around three-quarters of these patients will ultimately be found not to have a serious heart condition, they must all undergo a series of rigorous and expensive tests, according to Steve Parker, CEO of Vitalscan developer Creavo Medical Technologies.
“Most people would think that if you turn up to a hospital with chest pain, it is very easy to detect a heart attack or other serious cardiac event, but the reality is that it can take up to 20 hours of investigations for clinicians to be able to tell that you do not have a serious heart problem.”
The Vitalscan device is based on magnetocardiography (MCG), which maps the magnetic field of the heart, said Parker.
“The heart has an electrical function, and obviously with every electrical function there is a magnetic signal,” said Parker.
Although these magnetic signals are extremely small, even a slight disruption, caused by ischaemic heart disease, for example, will distort the entire magnetic field, and can therefore be clearly seen on the scan.
The device uses a noise-reduction algorithm to allow it to detect these small magnetic signals.
“The signals given off by the heart are about one millionth the size of the magnetic field of the Earth,” said Parker. “So a big part of the advance has been in the software, and the noise-reduction algorithm that we use to be able to see the signal and differentiate it from the background,” he said.
The portable, battery-power device can be used to perform a quick, non-invasive scan lasting up to five minutes at a patient’s bedside. This can then allow doctors to quickly and accurately rule-out ischemic heart disease, meaning patients can move on to the most appropriate care for their needs, and reducing healthcare costs.