A new practise using 3D modelling technology to simplify heart disease diagnosis and reduce the number of unnecessary invasive heart procedures is being trialled at Hartlepool's hospital trust.
Supported by the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NUTH) are two of just 27 trusts across the country using HeartFlow Analysis to diagnose patients with suspected coronary artery disease (CAD).
Using data from a standard cardiac CT scan, HeartFlow Analysis uses artificial intelligence and trained analysts to create digital 3D models of a patient’s coronary arteries to evaluate the blood flow to the heart.
The unique image analysis software enables clinicians to more accurately determine the appropriate treatment for patients and reduce the use of invasive and costly diagnostic procedures such as coronary angiograms, which have a risk of serious complications.
To try to minimise these risks, many healthcare systems rely on stress testing (for example, monitoring how the heart responds to physical exercise), which does not always deliver reliable results and often leads to more testing.
With HeartFlow Analysis, physicians can identify patients who can be managed through medication to slow down the progression of disease and it ensures patients scheduled to undergo invasive procedures have a genuine need for treatments of this nature.
It has been estimated by NICE that HeartFlow Analysis may lead to a net saving of £214 per patient, compared to the current treatment pathway in which CAD is determined primarily by coronary angiography, an invasive and costly procedure.
This could result in savings of more than £9m nationally by 2021/22.
Dr Justin Carter, Consultant Cardiologist at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, added: “We are delighted to have been selected as one of the sites for national roll out of this technology.
"It recognises North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust as a regional centre of diagnostic excellence in an era when non-invasive cardiac imaging technology is coming to the fore. Our cardiac imaging capability serves the people of Teesside with diagnostics ready for those requiring interventional therapy with our colleagues at James Cook.”
The technology was made available to a small number of eligible hospital trusts across the UK through the Innovation Technology Payment (ITP) 2018/19 scheme, with NHS England directly funding the HeartFlow Analysis until the end of March next year.