Bleeding hearts revealed with new scan

Jan 19, 2009
The colored area on this MRI scan shows a cross-section of the heart muscle, with the area of bleeding shown in red. Credit: Imperial College London

Images that for the first time show bleeding inside the heart after people have suffered a heart attack have been captured by scientists, in a new study published today in the journal Radiology.

The research shows that the amount of bleeding can indicate how damaged a person's heart is after a heart attack. The researchers, from the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial College London, hope that this kind of imaging will be used alongside other tests to create a fuller picture of a patient's condition and their chances of recovery.

The research was funded by the Medical Research Council, the British Heart Foundation and the Department of Health, UK.

People suffer heart attacks when an artery that feeds blood to the heart becomes blocked, stopping the heart's blood supply and depriving the heart muscle of oxygen. Currently, most people treated for a heart attack are fitted with a metal tube called a stent to keep the blocked artery clear.

Recent research has shown that some people experience bleeding inside the heart muscle once blood starts to pump into it again. However, the significance of this bleeding is currently not understood.

For the new small study, the researchers captured images of bleeding inside the heart in 15 patients from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust who had recently suffered a heart attack, using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Analysis of the MRI scans revealed that the amount of bleeding correlated with how much damage the heart muscle had sustained.

Patients who had suffered a large heart attack, where a lot of the heart muscle was damaged, had a lot of bleeding into the heart muscle compared with those whose heart attack was relatively small.

The researchers were able to detect the area of bleeding because of the magnetic effects of iron, which is present in the blood.

Dr Declan O'Regan, the first and corresponding author of the study from the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial College London, said: "Our study gives us a new insight into the damage that heart attacks can cause. 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"

Dr Stuart Cook, the study's senior author from the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial College London, added: "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. 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."

Source: Imperial College London

Explore further: US scientists make embryonic stem cells from adult skin

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Toward fixing damaged hearts through tissue engineering

Jan 22, 2014

In the U.S., someone suffers a heart attack every 34 seconds—their heart is starved of oxygen and suffers irreparable damage. Engineering new heart tissue in the laboratory that could eventually be implanted into patients ...

Help for African rhino poaching survivors

Jun 21, 2013

In Africa hundreds of rhinos are shot or immobilised by poachers every year to supply ground up horn for the Asian medicine market. It is reputed to make men virile and treat anything from stomach ache to ...

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.