Improving diagnosis of the causes of heart failure

A new study that could prevent missed or wrongful diagnosis of the underlying cause of heart failure has been funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Leicester researchers have been awarded a £158,000 project grant from the nation’s biggest heart charity to compare the accuracy of two different diagnostic tests that are normally used to help detect causes of heart failure.

To detect the causes of heart failure, patients can undergo a cardiac MRI ‘stress’ test. Two drugs - adenosine and dobutamine - can be used to ‘stress’ the heart. Either drug can be injected into patients to increase the workload of the heart, allowing doctors to better assess blood flow to the heart and see which parts of the heart muscle are not receiving an adequate blood supply.

The two-year study will compare the two drugs in 100 patients with heart failure to find out which provides the most accurate diagnosis in cardiac MRI stress testing. The research, thought to be the first of its kind in people with heart failure, will be led by Professor Gerry McCann at the University of Leicester BHF Cardiovascular Research Centre based at Leicester’s Hospitals.

Professor McCann, said: “MRI scanning is the best way to determine the cause of heart failure, as it allows us to take highly sophisticated images of the beating heart and examine it in much greater detail. It also presents us with a safe and accurate way to diagnose if coronary heart disease is the likely underlying cause.

“However, we don’t know which medicine allows us to best look at the blood supply to the heart during the MRI scan. This research will help us to understand which drug is the most effective, and could help us to prevent missed or wrongful diagnoses which would directly affect the care given.”