Mimi Murphy's Medical Breakthroughs: 3-D Help for the Heart

Medical Breakthroughs
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Heart disease can be difficult to diagnose. But doctors now have a new view of the heart thanks to better technology.

"Honestly, I'm amazed. I mean the whole thing amazes me," said Susan Cochran about watching her heart work.

What was more amazing to Cochran is that she had a heart attack without even realizing it.

"I had no chest pains. None of the normal what you would think symptoms. No shortness of breath – nothing," Cochran said.

She did have what she thought was gallbladder pain. Her doctor referred her to Duke University, the first hospital in the country to use an MRI to diagnose heart problems.

"One of the important advantages of cardiac MRI over other diagnostic techniques is its ability to determine which regions of the heart are alive, as compared to which regions are dead," said Duke Cardiac Researcher Robert Judd, Ph.D.

The MRI confirmed that Cochran had a heart attack. It also showed that her heart had enough live tissue for a bypass operation. Another MRI six months after surgery showed doctors the bypass worked, and Cochran's heart is getting healthier.

"For individual patients it means a much more accurate diagnosis, and then, of course, it's very important in planning their treatment, either surgical or non-surgical treatment," Judd said.

Cochran was glad to have the cardiac MRI available to her.

"It gives me a lot more confidence," said Cochran.

Susan, who loves crossword puzzles, has found a new three-letter abbreviation for a healthy heart -- MRI.

Doctors say the new cardiac MRI technology will become more common in the next few years and may replace many other techniques currently used to diagnose heart problems.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Richard Merritt
Duke University
Medical Center News Office
Box 3354
Durham, NC 27710
(919) 660-1309