(RxWiki News) Patients with coronary heart disease are often diagnosed following a battery of tests, some of which are invasive or require radiation. A better option allows patients to skip riskier or more invasive testing.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans appear to be the best tool for diagnosing coronary heart disease.
The scans appear more reliable, and are not as invasive as other common tests such as an angiogram, which requires an injection of dye into the heart's arteries or a non-invasive test called SPECT that requires an injection of radiation.
"Talk to a cardiologist about less invasive diagnostic heart testing."
Dr. John Greenwood, a study leader from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, said that the MRI technique could be used widely, not just in the UK. He noted that the machines used in the study are available in most hospitals, and would avoid patient and doctor exposure to radiation.
Coronary heart disease is a leading cause of death, and about 18 million in the U.S. live with the condition.
It occurs when arteries to the heart become narrowed or blocked by a build up of plaque. If left untreated it can lead to a heart attack.
During the study researchers enrolled 752 patients. They used both MRI and SPECT to detect coronary heart disease in patients and rule out patients that did not have the condition.
They found that MRI scans were a more reliable diagnostic tool, and also safer because patients were not exposed to radiation.
"For patients suffering with chest pains, there are a number of tests that can be used to decide whether their symptoms are due to coronary heart disease or not.
This research shows that a full MRI scan is better than the most commonly used alternative - a SPECT scan using a radioactive tracer," said Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation
"MRI has the additional advantage that it doesn't involve radiation. At present, not all hospitals have the expertise to undertake such scans, but these findings provide clear evidence that MRI should be more widely used in the future."
The study was funded by the British Heart Foundation are published in journal Lancet.