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article imageSafe MRI detects chemotherapy heart damage early for children

By Kathleen Blanchard     Jun 10, 2013 in Health
Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of cancer treatment drugs that might manifest years after receiving chemotherapy. Canadian researchers are using a special MRI to find children's heart damage from chemotherapy early.
The finding that comes from University of Alberta researchers in Canada highlights a new type of MRI that maps the heart muscle.
For the study, published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance, researchers used the MRI technique to scan the hearts of adults and children age 7 to 19 whose cancer was in remission.
The children had received cancer treatment with a class of agents known as anthracyclines that carry high rates of cardiac toxicity.
Dr Chris Plummer, consultant cardiologist at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, said in a press release, the chemotherapy is very effective for a variety of cancers, but the well-known side effect of heart damage is difficult to detect.
The study authors write: “Despite the effectiveness of anthracycline chemotherapy, cardiotoxicity remains a significant long-term secondary effect.”
Measuring heart function using current methods provide some insight into damage to children’s heart from cancer treatment, but the study authors say the information is limited.
The MRI technique, known as T1 mapping, provides images that are otherwise difficult to obtain because the heart is always in motion, Plummer said.
In their studies, they were able to detect thinning of the heart wall early on, even when ultrasound failed to detect heart damage from chemotherapy.
Plummer said, "We have to look for ways to protect the heart and intervene earlier when damage occurs. Waiting for visible heart damage to appear is too long to wait."
He says MRI with T1 mapping is an “excellent way of precisely monitoring heart function in children,” and the scans are “entirely safe”.
The study included 30 patients who were scanned two years after receiving chemotherapy with anthracyclines.
The authors concluded T1 mapping MRI scans can detect subtle changes in the hearts of child cancer survivors before functional changes occur.
More about Mri, T1mapping, Children, chemotherapy heart damge
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