Heart Scanner World First


The world’s first dedicated CT heart scanner has been installed at the Ulster Hospital. It can image the heart in less than a single heartbeat, taking just point two four of a second. The cardiologist can then definitively diagnose, or rule out, heart disease.

This would replace the often lengthy patient journey of visits to the chest pain clinic, tread mill tests and invasive angiograms where dye is pumped through the patient’s arteries.

The Ulster has a history of pioneering CT scanning for cardiac investigations but previously these have been done using the multi- purpose CT scanner. It cuts the heart into slices, on a virtual basis, and images each one but because this took place over multiple heart beats, it was not a definitive picture. The new bespoke scanner, the CardioGraphe,  gives a binary diagnosis – yes or no. Being able to diagnose  heart attack before it happens means significantly better outcomes.

Patients identified with serious cardiac problems can be sent for surgery or stenting immediately.  Those with early cardiac disease can be referred for the appropriate surgery or medication while those with potential to suffer a heart attack in the long term can be placed on a preventative pathway.

Consultant Cardiologist Dr Patrick Donnelly said:  “This scanner changes the rules and allows us to engage with the patients who need us most. The large number of people presenting with chest pain far outweighs our capacity.  The scanner removes diagnostic uncertainty and will allow us to evaluate patients quickly and in greater detail. In turn, this will free up resources for prevention pathways, with data indicating around 30% of heart attacks could be avoided.

At the Ulster Hospital, we want  to shift towards prevention and maintaining heart health rather than managing heart disease, and the development of this scanner is a major milestone along this path.

It was wonderful that GE Healthcare placed their confidence in us to allow this collaboration. CT is so fundamental to what we do, and our patients will now have equity of access to technology”

Alongside the new scanner,   51 out of 57 GPs in the South Eastern Trust area have now been trained in the use of heart monitors.  The monitors are issued to patients suffering from palpitations and they can trigger the recording when they feel an episode coming on. This captures the patient’s symptoms for a minute before and a minute after the palpitation, providing real time data.

Pictured above:  Consultant Cardiologist, Dr Patrick Donnelly, patient Keith Miller from Bangor and Radiographer, Sarah Smythe

Dr Patrick Donnelly with Cardiac & Radiology Teams.