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Breakthrough heart scanner will allow earlier diagnosis
Date:1/28/2010

An innovative cardiac scanner will dramatically improve the process of diagnosing heart conditions.

The portable magnetometer* is being developed at the University of Leeds, with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) playing a key role.

Due to its unprecedented sensitivity to magnetic fluctuations the device will be able to detect a number of conditions, including heart problems in foetuses, earlier than currently available diagnostic techniques such as ultrasound, ECG (electrocardiogram) and existing cardiac magnetometers. It will also be smaller, simpler to operate, able to gather more information and significantly cheaper than other devices currently available.

'Listen to a podcast about the device on our Pioneer Podcast page on iTunes or alternatively, watch it on our Youtube or Vimeo channels

Another key benefit is that, for the first time, skilled nurses as well as doctors will be able to carry out heart scans, helping to relieve pressure on hospital waiting lists. The device will also function through clothes, cutting the time needed to perform scans and removing the need for patients to undress for an examination. It could also be taken out to a patient's home, leading to a reduction in the use of hospital facilities.

Large scale magnetometers have been used for some time for things like directional drilling for oil and gas, on spacecraft for planet exploration and to detect archaeological sites and locate other buried or submerged objects. What has prevented them being used for identifying heart conditions is their size and high cost along with the specialist skill needed to operate them. Using them to examine a patient would involve containing the person within a magnetic shield to cut out other electrical interference.

"The new system gets round previous difficulties by putting the actual detector in its own magnetic shield," said Professor Ben Varcoe who
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Contact: EPSRC Press Office
pressoffice@epsrc.ac.uk
01-793-444-404
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Source:Eurekalert

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