Scans could improve heart disease diagnosis

15 March 2015        

A picture of a person about to go into a scanner.

Using a CT scan as well as the standard tests could improve coronary heart disease diagnosis, according to a University of Edinburgh study led by a BHF Professor.

The researchers found that a CT coronary angiogram led to patients with chest pain having their diagnosis correctly reclassified in a quarter of cases. This often led to a change in the patient's treatment.

The study, called SCOT-HEART, involved 4,000 patients who came in hospital with chest pain suspected to be angina, which is usually caused by coronary heart disease. Improved diagnosis of coronary heart disease could save lives by helping doctors make better decisions about treatment to reduce a person's risk of a heart attack.

The number of heart attacks in the group of patients who had the CT scan was around a third less than in the group who received standard tests.

BHF Professor David Newby, who led the research, said: “Our findings are encouraging. However, the overall rate of heart attacks was low and we need to follow them for longer to confirm whether the technology helps to save lives in the long-term.”

Next steps for this research

Researchers now plan to investigate, in a separate study, whether giving the scans to all patients who arrive at A&E with chest pains can also help to cut heart attack rates.

Our Medical Director, Professor Peter Weissberg, said:

“Accurate diagnosis of coronary heart disease is vital for ensuring patients receive the optimum treatment to manage their condition and reduce risk of a heart attack. Research comparing existing care with other available tests is important for demonstrating how diagnosis could be improved.

“This study provides strong evidence that a CT coronary angiogram can improve diagnosis and help doctors choose the right treatment for suspected coronary heart disease. We welcome news of further research to see whether giving this test to all patients with chest pain would help to reduce their risk of heart attack.”

The results of the SCOT-HEART trial were published in The Lancet and presented at the American College of Cardiologists conference.

This is just one of the many promising projects BHF Professor Newby is leading. We can only fund researchers like him with your support.