New imaging technique can diagnose common heart condition

February 11, 2014

A new imaging technique for measuring blood flow in the heart and vessels can diagnose a common congenital heart abnormality, bicuspid aortic valve, and may lead to better prediction of complications.

A Northwestern Medicine team reported the finding in the journal Circulation. In the study, the authors demonstrated for the first time a previously unknown relationship between valve abnormalities, blood flow changes in the heart and aortic disease. They showed that blood flow changes were driven by specific types of abnormal aortic valves, and they were able to directly associate blood flow patterns with aortic diseases.

"Blood flow in patients with bicuspid aortic valves was significantly different compared to that in patients with normal valves," said senior author Michael Markl, associate professor of radiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "We now have direct evidence that bicuspid valves induce changes in blood flow and that the type of flow abnormality may contribute to the development of different expressions of heart disease in these patients."

Bicuspid aortic valve is a heart condition in which the aortic valve only has two leaflets, instead of the normal three. It affects approximately one to two of every 100 Americans and is the most common congenital cardiovascular abnormality. Despite the absence of symptoms, the condition can lead to significant and potentially life-threatening complications, including enlargement of the blood vessel (aneurysm) and rupture. However, it is not known which patients are at the highest risk for complications and whether the condition's origin is genetic or related to changes in blood flow.

The 4D flow MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) used in the study has the potential for better predictive ability.

"The study demonstrated that new imaging techniques may help to determine patient-specific changes in blood flow to better understand which regional areas of the aorta are most prone to developing disease," Markl said. "In addition, the knowledge of abnormal blood flow patterns could be important to better identify patients at risk for the development of ."

Markl's team was surprised to see such a clear distinction between individual expressions of aortic complications for different types of congenital valve disease. While the current findings show evidence of this link, long-term observational studies are needed to better understand the potential of 4D flow MRI to improve disease prediction ability.

A longitudinal follow-up study in patients with bicuspid is currently underway at Northwestern.

"Ultimately, we hope that this imaging technique will facilitate early identification of high-risk patterns associated with progressive aortic enlargement, improving the allocation of health care resources in caring for patients with this prevalent condition," Markl said.

Explore further: Northwestern launches comprehensive program for patients with bicuspid aortic valve disease

Related Stories

Northwestern launches comprehensive program for patients with bicuspid aortic valve disease

July 3, 2012
Bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) disease is the most common congenital heart defect, occurring in approximately one to two percent of the population. The condition is present when the aortic valve, the valve that connects the ...

The first biological heart valve implanted into a beating heart

December 20, 2013
A few days ago, the cardiac surgeons at the MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital achieved an absolute first: the first biological heart valve implanted into a beating heart was given to a male patient who had a leaky ...

Researchers study new heart valve that doesn't require open-heart surgery

October 9, 2013
Northwestern's Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute has enrolled its first participant in SALUS, a clinical trial studying the effectiveness of a prosthetic aortic heart valve that can be placed without open-heart surgery. The ...

Family history doubles aortic stenosis risk

September 1, 2013
The risk of aortic stenosis doubles when a first degree relative had the disease, according to research presented at ESC Congress 2013 today by Dr. Mattis F. Ranthe from Denmark. The study of 4.2 million people from Danish ...

Morphology of bicuspid aortic valve influences outcomes

October 19, 2012
(HealthDay)—The morphology of bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) malformations plays an important role in outcomes, according to a study published in the Nov. 1 issue of The American Journal of Cardiology.

Recommended for you

Could aggressive blood pressure treatments lead to kidney damage?

July 18, 2017
Aggressive combination treatments for high blood pressure that are intended to protect the kidneys may actually be damaging the organs, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Quantifying effectiveness of treatment for irregular heartbeat

July 17, 2017
In a small proof-of-concept study, researchers at Johns Hopkins report a complex mathematical method to measure electrical communications within the heart can successfully predict the effectiveness of catheter ablation, the ...

Concerns over side effects of statins stopping stroke survivors taking medication

July 17, 2017
Negative media coverage of the side effects associated with taking statins, and patients' own experiences of taking the drugs, are among the reasons cited by stroke survivors and their carers for stopping taking potentially ...

Study discovers anticoagulant drugs are being prescribed against safety advice

July 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that GPs are prescribing anticoagulants to patients with an irregular heartbeat against official safety advice.

Protein may protect against heart attack

July 14, 2017
DDK3 could be used as a new therapy to stop the build-up of fatty material inside the arteries

Heart study finds faulty link between biomarkers and clinical outcomes

July 14, 2017
Surrogate endpoints (biomarkers), which are routinely used in clinical research to test new drugs, should not be trusted as the ultimate measure to approve new health interventions in cardiovascular medicine, according to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.