Patients suspected of heart disease are set to be diagnosed five times faster using an artificial intelligence powered tool that provides a 3D scan of a patient’s heart.
NHS England is rolling out HeartFlow to diagnose and treat heart disease. The tool turns regular heart CT scans into a 3D image to allow clinicians to diagnose life-threatening coronary heart disease in 20 minutes.
Around 100,000 people are eligible to use HeartFlow over the next three years, with more than 35,000 people set to benefit each year.
HeartFlow uses data from a coronary CT angiography scan to create a personalised, digital 3D model of the patient’s coronary arteries.
Its algorithms then simulate blood flow in a patient’s arteries to help clinicians assess the functional impact of any blockages.
The technology has proved to have a “meaningful impact” in clinical trials and has the potential to eliminate invasive diagnostic procedures and help ensure those who do need the procedures are seen quicker.
Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “The NHS Long Term Plan committed to cutting strokes, heart attacks and other major killers as well as ensuring patients would benefit from cutting edge therapies and techniques and HeartFlow is just the latest example of that.
“By rapidly improving the rate we diagnose and treat those with a heart condition we will save thousands of lives and ensure as well as delivering the most successful vaccination programme in health service history, the NHS is able to deliver routine services even quicker than before the pandemic.”
Once patients are diagnosed using HeartFlow they will be referred to the most appropriate treatment, including surgery, medication or having a stent fitted.
Less serious cases would be recommended lifestyle changes to resolve the risk of illness before it becomes life-threatening.
Dr Derek Connolly, consultant interventional cardiologist at Sandwell & West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “For every five patients who have a cardiac CT and a HeartFlow Analysis, four patients go home knowing they don’t need anything else.
“Half of those patients will be on cholesterol tablets because they have early disease, and the other half will have normal coronary arteries.
“Incorporating the HeartFlow Analysis has had a meaningful impact at our hospitals, improving the diagnosis and treatment of the leading cause of death.”
Matt Whitty, director of innovation and life sciences for NHS England, said:“This latest innovation will help patients and will contribute to helping the NHS to recover from the pandemic as we continue to deliver on our ambitious Long Term Plan commitments to provide patients across the country with the most up to date tech, as quickly as possible.
“HeartFlow has been a huge success in clinical trials and will now help tens of thousands of people a year receive quick diagnosis and treatment and ultimately save lives.”
HeartFlow was rolled out as part of the MedTech Funding Mandate policy, an NHS Long Term Plan commitment which supports the implementation of proven medical devices, diagnostics and digital products.
The mandate was first consulted on in December 2019, but its launch was delayed due to coronavirus. It came into effect on 1 April 2021, with the option to extend funding for up to three years until March 2024.
The policy mandate is expected to cost £20 million over the first three years with a return saving of £25 million on patient care, based on National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) modelling.
Four health tech companies were included in the MedTech funding in 2021/22, with the aim to provide innovative medical devices and digital products to NHS patients faster.