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HeartSpeed: Fast cardiac MRIs with the freedom to breathe

Missouri Radiology Imaging Center photos including photos of MRI, Cat scan, x-ray and ultrasound procedures. (MU Health Care)

Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging is used to detect and monitor disease and evaluate the heart’s anatomy and function. However, the exams often require patients to spend a long time in a tight space.

Cardiac MRI exams can last 45 to 90 minutes and require multiple 10- to 20-second breath holds by the patient. The procedure can be exhausting for patients, particularly frail patients with breathing difficulties who are unable to hold their breath.

A team of researchers at the University of Missouri is working to fix that problem through a project called HeartSpeed. HeartSpeed uses data analysis software to eliminate the need for patients to hold their breath.

“We found that we could separate breathing motion from the heart motion quite well using the software, and we thought we should try to start applying this to real patient data to make a clinical tool,” said Steve Van Doren, PhD, a professor of biochemistry at MU.

The goal is a more comfortable scan in which patients are able to breathe freely. Shorter procedure times will also result in increased efficiency and lower costs.

“Patients will benefit because it will be easier for them to do the exam. Hopefully the radiologist or cardiologist who reads the MRI will benefit because the images will be much better,” said Talissa Altes, MD, chair of the Department of Radiology at the MU School of Medicine.

Team members include:

  • Robert Thomen, PhD, Departments of Bioengineering and Radiology
  • Steven Van Doren, PhD, Department of Biochemistry
  • Talissa Altes, MD, Department of Radiology

The HeartSpeed team was recently awarded a grant through MU’s Coulter Translational Partnership Program. The grant is meant to help promising medical discoveries make the transition from laboratory research to commercial investment and direct patient care.

As bringing engineers and clinicians together to develop solutions to unmet medical needs is a key premise of the Coulter Program, all MU Coulter projects include faculty members from the MU College of Engineering and the MU School of Medicine.

To learn more about the MU Coulter Program, click here.

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