Heart Research UK funds UCL research to improve baby congenital heart disease diagnosis

Vivek Muthurangu

National charity, Heart Research UK has granted funding for an innovative research project with University College London, UK, and Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, UK, which aims to pioneer a new imaging technique that may benefit babies born with congenital heart disease.

Heart Research UK has granted £217,373 for Vivek Muthurangu, reader in Cardiovascular Imaging and Physics at the University College London, to conduct the 36-month long project. This project aims to develop an innovative five-minute magnetic resonance scan to help doctors more easily diagnose heart disease in babies and young children.

Around one in 180 babies in the UK are born with congenital heart disease. Although it is not necessary to perform surgery in each case, it is essential for cardiologists and surgeons to understand the structure and function of the heart, quickly and efficiently, when treatment is required.

Cardiac magnetic resonance (MR) is recognised as one of the best methods of imaging the heart in children with heart disease.  However this imaging technique takes a long time to perform, requires an expert to do the scanning, is very costly and can be distressing for babies and young children, often leading to the need for general anaesthetic being used.

Muthurangu’s research will be tested on children currently undergoing conventional cardiac MR and attempt to speed up the scan by combining the most efficient methods of collecting cardiac MR data with computer algorithms that generate high quality pictures. Also, they will use cloud-based computing to more rapidly generate images.

By reducing the procedure from one hour to five minutes, it is hoped that this new technique will dramatically reduce the cost and patient discomfort of cardiac MR, so that more children can benefit. This will allow cardiac MR to be used more widely, bringing the benefits of more sophisticated evaluation of the heart to more children. The better information may also help doctors to decide on the best ways to treat these children.

Muthurangu says: “Imaging the heart in children with heart disease is vital in making the right decisions about the treatment.  Cardiac MR is one of the best methods available, but is time consuming and expensive. We hope that our Heart Research UK funding will enable us to develop a new way of performing cardiac MR in five minutes. I believe that this could significantly change how we image children with heart disease in the future.”

“We award our Novel and Emerging Technology grants to research projects which focus on the development of new and innovative technologies to diagnose, treat and prevent heart disease and related conditions. We are pleased to award one of our NET grants to such an exciting project which may improve children’s experiences, save money and improve the efficiency of such an important scan. This research aims to benefit younger patients as soon as possible,” comments Barbara Harpham, chief executive at Heart Research UK.


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