Twenty-minute NHS heart checks to speed up diagnosis and cut hospital stays

Laura Donnelly
·2 min read
Senior man having a stroke/heart attack  - Peter Dazeley/Getty Images Contributor 
Senior man having a stroke/heart attack - Peter Dazeley/Getty Images Contributor

Twenty-minute heart checks on the NHS will allow patients to be diagnosed five times more quickly and prevent hospital stays, health chiefs have said.

The 3D heart scans will be offered to around 100,000 patients with suspected heart disease over the next three years.

The technology, called HeartFlow, turns a regular CT scan of the heart into a 3D image allowing doctors to diagnose life-threatening coronary heart disease in just 20 minutes. Previously, patients would have had to go to hospital for an invasive and time-consuming angiogram.

Health officials said the rollout would mean patients could be seen, diagnosed, and treated around five times more quickly, speeding up help for them, and helping services to get back on track.

The device will be offered to patients with stable, recent onset chest pains, who would currently be sent to hospital for angiograms. The national scheme follows NHS targets to reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes by 150,000.

Once patients are diagnosed, they will be offered treatments including surgery, medication or having a stent fitted. In less serious cases, they could be given tips on healthy lifestyle changes or cholesterol-lowering medication.

Stephen Powis, the NHS medical director, said: "The NHS Long-Term Plan committed to cutting strokes, heart attacks and other major killers as well as ensuring patients would benefit from cutting edge therapies and techniques, and HeartFlow is just the latest example of that.

"By rapidly improving the rate we diagnose and treat those with a heart condition we will save thousands of lives and ensure – as well as delivering the most successful vaccination programme in health service history – the NHS is able to deliver routine services even quicker than before the pandemic."

Health officials said more people in England will have access to the potentially life-saving technology than anywhere else in Europe, the US or Japan, with around 35,000 patients set to benefit annually.

Dr Derek Connolly, a consultant interventional cardiologist at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust said: "For every five patients who have a cardiac CT and a HeartFlow Analysis, four patients go home knowing they don’t need anything else.

"Half of those patients will be on cholesterol tablets because they have early disease, and the other half will have normal coronary arteries.

"Incorporating the HeartFlow Analysis has had a meaningful impact at our hospitals, improving the diagnosis and treatment of the leading cause of death."

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