Pioneering research looks to transform imaging for infants with congenital heart disease

The Leeds Children’s Hospital Congenital Heart Unit and the University of Leeds are undertaking pioneering research addressing challenges in the diagnosis and monitoring of infants with congenital heart disease. The project aims to establish a new approach to imaging these patients by using a 4D Flow MRI prototype software from Siemens Healthineers, reducing scan time to under 10 minutes while infants sleep in an MR-safe incubator.

Donations led by Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, including Heart Research UK and other funders, have helped to equip the unit with equipment including an MRI coil and an MR-safe closed incubator.

Congenital heart disease is one of the most common types of birth defect and while survival rates have improved, diagnosis and imaging of newborns can be challenging. Traditionally, CT imaging has often been preferred over MRI due to reduced acoustic noise and faster scan times, while MRI has necessitated breath-holds and patient sedation with the associated risk to infants. The use of CT however, requires x-rays and produces a less comprehensive dataset than MRI. The project is pushing the boundaries of 4D Flow and cardiac MRI to establish an approach that could provide greater data at a high speed and transform the way imaging is performed on infants. Acquiring a full set of MR images that provide both anatomical and functional information can take up to an hour; however, with the application of 4D Flow from Siemens Healthineers the project aims to achieve this in under 10 minutes. The technology provides a comprehensive, non-invasive assessment of the heart in one acquisition.

“The research we are currently under- taking makes the University of Leeds the first in the UK to scan babies with con- genital heart disease in this way,” said clinical lecturer of paediatric cardiology and consultant at Leeds Children’s Hospital Dr Malenka Bissell.

“In combination with the equipment funded by the charity, 4D Flow technology is paving the way to improved diagnostic pathways for these patients. Uncertainty can be one of the most stressful elements for parents, so we’re now looking at how we can use advanced imaging methods to improve our ability to predict when and if a patient will need surgery.”

Picture: Clinical lecturer of paediatric cardiology and consultant Dr Malenka Bissell with a Magnetom Prisma and the MR-safe closed incubator.

Published on page 7 of the July 2021 issue of RAD Magazine.

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