NHS Western Isles are leading in the field of coronary heart disease diagnosis.

HeartFlow, Inc. and NHS Western Isles are working together to help clinicians diagnose one of Scotland’s biggest killers, coronary heart disease (CHD).

Tuesday, 16th February 2021, 9:42 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th February 2021, 9:54 am
L-R: Debra Vickers (NHS Western Isles Nurse Consultant for Cardiology), Dr. David Rigby (NHS Western Isles Realistic Medicine & Therapeutics Clinical Lead) and Jane MacDonald NHS Western Isles Radiology Manager)

Marking National Heart Month amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Western Isles Hospital says its use of the pioneering technology, the HeartFlow Analysis, has helped its island population avoid unnecessary invasive procedures and reduces the need for lengthy travel to the mainland.The pioneering NHS board has adopted a CT-first approach with the HeartFlow Analysis which means that many patients who may have CHD can be diagnosed within a matter of days, and in one hospital visit. This reduces the requirement for patients to visit the mainland for onward investigation. It also limits the time patients must spend in healthcare settings, a critical advantage during the coronavirus pandemic.How does the artificial intelligence (AI) technology work?The HeartFlow Analysis takes data from a coronary CT scan and uses a form of AI and highly trained analysts to create a personalised, digital 3D model of the patient’s coronary arteries. Its algorithms solve millions of equations to simulate blood flow in a patient’s arteries to help clinicians assess the impact of any blockages.This unique technology helps clinicians quickly diagnose CHD and decide the appropriate treatment for patients. In many cases, the information provided by the HeartFlow Analysis enables physicians to avoid recommending invasive diagnostic procedures, which can carry their own risks.Debra Vickers, NHS Western Isles Nurse Consultant for Cardiology says: “The HeartFlow Analysis has helped us to transform patient care across our chain of islands. The detailed insights we’re able to get from using it in conjunction with CT scanning means we can confidently identify those who can be treated with medication alone.

"This makes a huge difference to our patients who could otherwise face a three-day journey to Glasgow for further investigations. Not only is this a lot to ask of our older patients but it is also costly for the Board. We’re a small team at NHS Western Isles but we’re proud to be the first in Scotland to offer this service to patients.”Jane MacDonald, Radiology Manager, NHS Western Isles said: “The cardiac CT scan with the HeartFlow Analysis has become the most specialised examination we perform. We work with some fantastic doctors on the mainland, but we don’t have a cardiology consultant or permanent radiologist on the island. So, the HeartFlow Analysis has been a great tool in helping us assess patients and get a diagnosis for them quickly. It has helped reduce the number of times people have to come to the hospital and prioritise further investigations or interventions for those who need it most.”Lance Scott, Chief Commercial Officer at HeartFlow said: “The global pandemic has certainly increased appetite for digital technologies that are able to assist medical professionals with diagnosis of disease. In an island setting such as the WI, it can be an invaluable tool for teams who are unable to perform invasive investigations on site. “The NHS continues to lead the world with its approach to CHD diagnosis.”