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A revolution in heart disease diagnosis

Posted By Ilana Teitelbaum On February 15, 2010 @ 12:00 am In | No Comments

A new imaging device from Israel can capture a still image of a beating heart, providing early diagnosis of the world’s Number One killer disease.

 

Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.
Today doctors treating heart patients often don’t know whether a patient requires an invasive procedure until the procedure is in progress.

Even though it’s widely known that heart disease is the number one killer in the US and worldwide, there’s a critical piece missing from its treatment – early diagnosis. By the time a patient has suffered a heart attack, the damage has already been done, yet that is precisely when most people discover that they have heart problems. A new invention from Israel that can provide a still image of the heart may supply the missing piece.

Dr. Ehud Dafni, CEO of Israeli company Arineta, has invented the first Computing Tomography (CT) imaging system that is specially designed for the heart. In the past, CT imaging of the heart was not possible because the organ is constantly in motion, beating. Recently, advanced technology has made it possible to capture a still image of the heart, but only with the use of expensive equipment that is not specifically designed for cardiac imaging and utilizes large amounts of radiation.

A one-stop shot of the heart

In contrast, explains Dafni, Arineta’s imaging system is small, inexpensive and uses only a small quantity of radiation. “It shows the entire heart in a one-stop shot and provides better quality images with less radiation,” Dafni tells ISRAEL21c.

Since it is low-cost and easy to operate, such a machine could be used for preventive screenings, just as mammography is used today for early diagnosis of breast cancer. Once people reach the age when they are at risk for coronary disease (Dafni suggests age 45 for men, 55 for women) a cardiac CT screening every five years could mean early diagnosis of the conditions that can lead to a fatal attack. It could also mean a significant reduction in the need for invasive procedures and surgeries.

Such screenings are not feasible today, given the cost and risks associated with cardiac CT imaging. “Today there is a general purpose machine, the best of which costs $2.5 million, weighs about three tons, can’t be operated in the doctor’s office, is hard to operate, and uses a relatively large amount of radiation,” explains Dafni. “What we offer is a machine which is much smaller, uses less radiation, and provides better images.”

Dafni is a veteran of the medical imaging field, having spent years as chief physicist and project manager for Elscint, once Israel’s leading producer of medical imaging devices. While at Elscint, Dafni also collaborated with Siemens on products that were distributed by both companies.

A revolution in cardiac care

Dafni suggests that cardiac CT imaging has the potential to revolutionize the way patients are currently treated for heart disease. While many companies are developing medications to improve the state of the heart, cardiologists have no way to determine whether or not the medications are working.

“There is no way to know if a patient will have a heart attack until he actually has one,” says Dafni. In contrast, with imaging, “Doctors can find out who will benefit from treatment, prescribe medication, and afterward follow up and see if medication worked, which you can’t today.”

Another problem with the current state of cardiology is that doctors often don’t know whether or not a patient requires an invasive procedure until the procedure is in progress. By the time tubes have been inserted into the arteries, the patient has racked up costs both physical and financial, which may have been unnecessary all along.

“With CT imaging, we can detect the disease at an early stage and can take steps to prevent it, which is an option we don’t have today,” Dafni concludes.

Based in Caesarea with a staff of five, Arineta was founded in 2006. The new machine has been designed and is slated for distribution in about two years. The company is funded by a group of investors led by Israeli healthcare investor Yossi Morik. Morik told Israel’s leading financial website Globes Online that he foresees an exit of at least $100 million.

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