Done in the blink of an eye: New 30-second retina scan could prevent thousands of heart attacks every yearHigh-def images will pick up signs of cardiac disease
05:59 GMT, 10 April 2012
A simple eye test could help save the lives of thousands of heart attack patients every year.
Using a pioneering procedure, high-definition images will be taken of the retinas of 1,000 patients thought to have heart disease.
The test – which takes a few seconds – will reveal any problems with the blood vessels, which can be indicative of cardiac disease.
Gone in 30 seconds: A simple eye could saves millions of lives by picking up signs of heart disease without the need for invasive procedures (file picture)
Doctors believe the test could hold the key to slashing heart disease, particularly in Scotland, which has the highest death rate from the condition in western Europe.
More than 8,000 people die each year, making it the second-highest cause of premature death north of the Border after cancer.
The test, pioneered by experts at the University of Edinburgh, will look at 1,000 patients with suspected heart disease.
The study will prove whether scans can detect signs of heart disease, which can be difficult to diagnose.
Pioneering: The scan takes high-resolution images, which will reveal any problems with the blood vessels, which can be indicative of cardiac disease
Patients will have high-definition images taken of their retinas to check for changes to blood vessel widths or unusually branched blood vessels.
The study could find a way to identify whether a patient is at risk of heart disease, without the need to carry out invasive procedures such as biopsies or angiograms, where catheters are used to identify vessel and organ damage.
Dr Tom MacGillivray, a research fellow at the university and manager of its image analysis laboratory in the Clinical Research Imaging Centre (CRIC), said: ‘We know that problems in the eye are linked to conditions such as diabetes and that abnormalities in the eye’s blood vessels can also indicate vascular problems in the brain.
‘If we can identify early problems in the blood vessels in the eyes we might potentially pinpoint signs of heart disease.
‘This could help identify people who would benefit from early lifestyle changes and preventative therapies.’
The project also involves the University of Dundee, Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion, Edinburgh, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, and London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital.
Researchers will use specialist equipment on loan from Optos – an eye care company based in Dunfermline, Fife.
The study will also feed into a wider research project, involving more than 4,000 patients, to assess whether CT scans are a more efficient alternative to current procedures to detect heart disease.