As one of only a few facilities in the world undertaking this type of research, The Prince Charles Hospital (TPCH) has been collaborating with Siemens Healthcare to acquire detailed images of the heart at high speed with the patient exercising inside the MRI scanner.
Led by Wendy Strugnell, Director of MRI Services at TPCH, the team has been developing and refining the advanced imaging technique for the past three years, the results of which have shown great promise.
“Conventionally, clinical cardiac MRI assessment is performed with the patient at rest,” Wendy says.
“However, in many heart and lung diseases, symptoms may only be brought on by physical activities. Performing functional assessment on an exercising patient can enable clinicians to uncover abnormalities not apparent at rest and therefore facilitate early treatment and improve the patient’s quality of life.”
The research has shown that right heart abnormalities not evident on resting heart scans in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension can be unmasked
during exercise. The team is now preparing to expand their research into other cardiac conditions including congenital heart diseases, heart failure, and patients
undergoing heart valve surgery. They believe that exercise MRI will allow better informed decisions on the timing of surgical and other therapeutic interventions
through early detection of cardiac impairment.
“We believe that exercise MRI will play a major role in the management of patients with different cardiac disorders in the future, with potentially a significant reduction in the overall cost related to healthcare provision to our patients,” Wendy says.
The research has been internationally recognised with three international awards at scientific meetings and funding from The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation, Actelion Pharmaceuticals and the Office of Health and Medical Research.