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MRI Scans Reveal Post-Heart Attack Bleeding

Images could offer doctors a better assessment of patient's condition, chances of recovery

TUESDAY, Jan. 20 (HealthDay News) -- The first images of post-heart attack bleeding within the heart have been made by U.K. scientists using MRI scans.

The Imperial College London team said their research shows that the amount of bleeding can indicate the degree of damage caused by a heart attack. The use of this kind of imaging, along with other tests, could offer doctors a more complete assessment of a heart attack patient's condition and chances of recovery, they said.

The researchers analyzed MRI images of bleeding inside the hearts of 15 people who'd recently suffered a heart attack. They found an association between the amount of bleeding and the degree of heart muscle damage. Patients with substantial heart muscle damage had more bleeding into the heart muscle than those who had less heart muscle damage.

MRI can detect the degree of bleeding inside the heart due to the magnetic effects of iron in the blood, the researchers explained.

"Our study gives us a new insight into the damage that heart attacks can cause," first and corresponding author Dr. Declan O'Regan said in an Imperial College London news release. "Using this new scanning technique shows us that patients who develop bleeding inside their damaged heart muscle have a much poorer chance of recovery. We hope that this will help us to identify which patients are at most risk of complications following their heart attack."

The study was published Jan. 19 in the journal Radiology.

"We still have a lot of unanswered questions about whether the bleeding itself may cause further damage to the heart muscle, and this is an area that needs further research," senior author Dr. Stuart Cook added in the news release. "The more we understand about what happens during and after a heart attack, the greater the chances are of scientists finding new ways to combat the damage that heart attacks cause."

More information

The American Heart Association has more about heart attack.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Imperial College London, news release, Jan. 19, 2009

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