Radiology in detail

What you might not know about heart and blood scans

If your doctor suspects that you have a problem with your heart or blood, the next step could be to have a scan with a radiologist. It is important to accurately and quickly diagnose such diseases so that the doctor can begin treatment as soon as possible.

1. There are different types of scan to help with diagnosis and management of diseases

If you are suspected to have a problem with your heart or blood, cardiologists and radiologists use different types of medical imaging to help with diagnosis. We are going to look at two examples: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT).

An MRI is an imaging technique that uses powerful magnets, radio waves, and a computer to make detailed pictures of the inside of your body. This imaging technique does not use radiation. Your doctor can use this test to diagnose certain diseases or to see how well you've responded to treatment1.

A CT scan allows doctors to see inside your body. It uses a combination of X-rays and a computer to create pictures of your organs, bones, and other tissues. It shows more detail than a regular X-ray 2.

2. Special scans detect problems with your heart or blood system

Your heart and blood vessels make up your cardiovascular system. If you have a problem with these parts of your body you are said to have a cardiovascular disease. One way to detect such diseases could be through two special types of MRI or CT scans.

Cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR)

What is it?

This is also known as a cardiac MRI. The technique produces high quality images of the different parts of the heart to assess the function and structure of the cardiovascular system. It is a procedure which does not use radiation and is based on the same principles as MRI, but optimized for use in the cardiovascular system.

What does it show?

Some CMR involves the injection of a contrast medium to highlight the blood vessels which provides information on the blood supply to the surrounding tissue or whether there is any inflammation or scarring. A contrast medium is a substance that can be injected into certain parts of the body before a scan. The contrast medium improves the visibility of certain internal structures.

Computed Tomography Coronary Angiography (CTCA)

What is it?

Angiography is X-ray imaging of blood vessels using a contrast medium, which is injected into the patient’s bloodstream. A CTCA scan takes images of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart.

What does it show?

The images determine if plaque buildup has narrowed the coronary arteries to the heart. Plaque is made up of various substances such as fat, cholesterol and calcium that can deposit inside arteries. Plaque, which builds up over time, can reduce, or in some cases completely block, blood flow.

More than 110 million radiological examinations are performed annually worldwide and heart and blood scans represent a third of these 3,4

3. Scans can also help with treatment and management of heart or blood conditions

Radiologists and cardiologists use scans as they can help diagnose, treat and manage a heart or blood disease.

4. A patient can influence the quality of a scan

At Bayer we carried out a study on over 1,000 patients to find out how they felt about having a scan. We found that 55% of patients felt anxious during the procedure – this could influence how successful a scan is.

Talk to your healthcare professional to prepare yourself for a scan. If you feel worried or are not sure what to expect they can explain what role you play in helping make the scan a success. This could include things such as breathing in or out when instructed or trying to keep as still as possible for the duration of the procedure.

Patients who feel well-prepared and informed could be more relaxed during the procedure and more able to follow the instructions they receive during the scan. This contributes to a better image that helps with diagnosis.

“These results emphasize the role that education can play in ensuring patients feel both confident and reassured ahead of, during, and after their scan. At Bayer, we have developed support materials for both patients and radiologists with the goal of increasing this knowledge, to the benefit of all involved. ”

Dr. Thomas Balzer, Head Medical & Clinical Affairs Radiology, Bayer

If you are preparing for a scan or simply want to learn more about them, take a look at our radiology website to find out more.

 


Sources:

1 WebMD, What is an MRI?, Last accessed October 2018
2 WebMD, What is a CT scan?, Last accessed October 2018
3 Beckett, K. et al. Safe Use of Contrast Media: What the Radiologist Needs to Know. RadioGraphics. 2015 Oct; 35(6): 1738-1750
4 Otero J Hanel et al. Cost-effective diagnostic cardiovascular imaging: when does it provide good value for the money?. Int J Cardiovasc Imaging. 2010; 26(6): 605-612