3D heart scans to give 100,000 patients faster treatment on NHS

Aine Fox, PA
·2-min read

Patients with life-threatening coronary heart disease will be diagnosed and treated five times faster thanks to 3D scans being rolled out on the NHS.

The revolutionary technology can turn a regular CT scan of the heart into a 3D image, allowing doctors to diagnose them in just 20 minutes, NHS England said.

It added that some 100,000 people will be eligible to use the HeartFlow technology over the next three years.

Patients – who would previously have had to undergo an invasive and time-consuming angiogram in hospital – are now set to be seen, diagnosed and treated around five times faster.

After diagnosis, treatments range from surgery or medication, to having a stent fitted.

Patients with less serious conditions can be given healthy lifestyle tips or cholesterol-lowering medication.

This latest technology, rolled out from last month, is part of the NHS Long Term Plan aim to cut the number of heart attacks and strokes by 150,000.

NHS England said more people here will have access to the potentially life-saving technology than anywhere else in Europe, the US or Japan.

Coronavirus – Mon Feb 1, 2021
NHS England National Medical Director Stephen Powis (Chris J Ratcliffe/PA)

Matt Whitty, director of innovation and life sciences for NHS England, said HeartFlow had been a “huge success” in clinical trials and would now help “tens of thousands of people a year receive quick diagnosis and treatment and ultimately save lives”.

NHS medical director Stephen Powis said: “The NHS Long Term Plan committed to cutting strokes, heart attacks and other major killers as well as ensuring patients would benefit from cutting-edge therapies and techniques, and HeartFlow is just the latest example of that.

“By rapidly improving the rate we diagnose and treat those with a heart condition we will save thousands of lives and ensure as well as delivering the most successful vaccination programme in health service history, the NHS is able to deliver routine services even quicker than before the pandemic.”

Dr Derek Connolly, consultant interventional cardiologist at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, said the technology had had a “meaningful impact at our hospitals, improving the diagnosis and treatment of the leading cause of death”.

He said: “For every five patients who have a cardiac CT and a HeartFlow analysis, four patients go home knowing they don’t need anything else.

“Half of those patients will be on cholesterol tablets because they have early disease, and the other half will have normal coronary arteries.”

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, welcomed wider access to the technology.

He said: “This will benefit patients and the NHS by preventing unnecessary admissions for angiograms and quickly providing information that allows patients to be put on the best treatment pathway for their condition.

“This is particularly important at a time when we are dealing with the challenges that Covid-19 has caused to the delivery of normal care to patients with heart and circulatory diseases.”