"This information could change the diagnosis and assessment of heart disease from its earliest stages," the lead author of the report, Dr. Daniela Foell, a senior consultant in cardiology at the University Hospital Freiburg, said in a news release.
But there's a long way to go before that happens, Gerber noted.
"At this stage of the game, it is a nice proof of principle paper, but to make it clinically useful, other groups would have to use the same tools to see if they get the same results and in a much larger group of patients," he said.
Also, the study included only a selected group of Germans, Gerber pointed out. "This was a fairly small group and to accept this as normal findings across the world would be premature," he said.
While the study "hasn't uncovered anything breathtakingly new," it has provided very detailed information about the normal heartbeat and sets the stage for more detailed future studies, Gerber added.
"If we had a large data base for different ages and genders, we could establish what is normal and then we could tell for a particular patient whether a particular aspect of cardiac rotation was abnormal, and that would tell the physician that something was wrong," Gerber said. "But there are no abnormalities we know now that are specific for a particular disease."
Learn how cardiologists use MRI from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Thomas C. Gerber, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.C., F.A.H.A., associate professor of medicine and radiology, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla.; Dec. 8, 2009, Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, online
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