par Sean Ruck
, Contributing Editor | April 26, 2021
From the April 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
HCB News: Are there any emerging use cases for cardiac imaging that researchers are particularly excited about?
There are lots of questions we can answer now that we couldn’t in the past. One area that stands out is cardiotoxicity. We give radiation to patients with cancer to help them, but there’s a risk we may end up damaging the heart, which, in some cases can be permanent. That means it can be a very heavy decision. So being able to identify the potential for damage, and if there is early evidence of damage, you can stop the chemotherapy and protect the heart, is incredibly valuable.
Then, there are questions regarding things like ventricular stiffness. That’s an epidemic itself. Of course, there’s always the question of how to measure how well the heart is pumping. The metric we have now is called ejection fraction. It’s not very good. There are better techniques coming out that measure myocardial mechanics, so that’s very exciting. Lastly, there are some advances in CMR which allow you to extract a bunch of parameters from one single scan. That’s going to be a game changer. My journal has been fortunate to showcase a lot of the outstanding papers in this area.
HCB News: What are some of the big cardiac imaging topics to look forward to at the upcoming ACC virtual meeting?
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The program for this year hasn’t been released yet, but I expect to see a fair amount of machine learning AI. There will be a lot of discussions about how to evaluate patients with chest pain and ischemia since the ischemia trials came out a few months ago with some very interesting results that the imaging community may or may not have been expecting. There will be all the usual topics as well – CT and CMR will feature prominently.
HCB News: We think of cardiac MR as a somewhat sophisticated exam that is not available in the routine clinical environment. Is that changing?
It is, but very slowly. We are a little behind compared to Europe — especially Germany and the United Kingdom. There’s a big opportunity here to enhance utilization of CMR. It provides so much information, it can become a one-stop shop for most diagnostic conditions. It also provides something unique that most other tests don’t have — or even if they have, it’s extremely difficult to get — and that is tissue signatures.
HCB News: How much of a role is AI playing in cardiac imaging today and how much growth do you expect in the coming years?
It’s already playing a fairly large role in the background in how machines analyze data and how they produce models of the heart, but we’re moving into uncharted territory. It’s extremely exciting, but also potentially unnerving, with what AI can and cannot do. The imaging leaders of the future may not necessarily only be the doctors. Of course doctors will still be there, but a lot of imaging technology may move from companies that are currently in health care to companies who are experts on handling large amounts of data: Facebook, Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft.