Breakthrough scan can ‘accurately predict risk of heart attacks NINE years in advance’

Experts claim 350,000 Brits a year could benefit from the checks.

And they could be rolled out across the NHS in as little as two years – helping prevent tens of thousands of heart attacks.

Currently, patients experiencing chest pain are sent for CT scans. Around a quarter have blockages which are treated with surgery, but the rest are sent home.

However, many of these people go on to have heart attacks. Oxford University scientists used artificial intelligence to look “beneath the surface” of routine CT scans to assess patient risk.

The new tech spots dangerous build-up of fat and scarring around the organ. It allows medics to predict the likelihood of a heart attack over the next nine years with up to 90 per cent accuracy.

Those deemed high risk can then be given medication and monitored to prevent a deadly episode. Professor Charalambos Antoniades, who led the study at Oxford’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, said current scans only allows medics see the “tip of the iceberg”.

But the new tech lets doctors view the whole picture. Speaking at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Paris, he said: “It is massively important because it will direct treatment and it will save lives.

‘POWERFUL TECHNOLOGY’

“Now, about 75 per cent of the people who have a CT scan come back as normal. We give them the advice to go home and not worry. These are the people we are really targeting.

“A machine can read the scan and give you the accurate information. It can give you the specific risk of the patient, it can tell you if you need treatment or you don’t need treatment.

“It is up to 85-90 per cent accurate at predicting heart attack over the next nine years.” CT scans are currently used on about 40,000 high-risk Brits a year.

But Prof Antoniades said new guidelines recommend using the tech to scan 350,000 annually.

They would typically be given to people aged 40 to 70 with chest pains or who are considered at risk because of obesity, smoking or diabetes.

Professor Metin Avkiran, from the BHF, said: “Every five minutes, someone is admitted to a UK hospital due to a heart attack.

“This research is a powerful example of how innovative use of machine learning technology has the potential to revolutionise how we identify people at risk of a heart attack and prevent them from happening.

“This is a significant advance. It extracts additional information about underlying biology from scans used routinely to detect narrowed arteries….and could represent a big step forward in personalised care for people with suspected coronary artery disease.”