Secondary Care

NHS hospitals turn to deep learning and advanced algorithms to fight heart disease

New technology using deep learning and advanced algorithms to evaluate blood flow to the heart is now being used in English hospitals to fight against coronary heart disease.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is one of the leading causes of death in the UK. It is responsible for more than 66,000 deaths each year and it is estimated that 2.3 million people in the UK are currently living with the diseasei. CHD develops when the arteries leading to the heart narrow or become blocked, which can reduce blood flow, and cause chest pain and heart attacksii.

The HeartFlow® FFRct Analysis is being supported by NHS England as part of the Innovation and Technology Payment (ITP) programme to help physicians better diagnose coronary heart disease. It provides the highest diagnostic performance compared to other commonly available testsiii and is able to help physicians identify coronary disease often missed by other tests, while reducing the need for unnecessary tests, such as an invasive diagnostic angiogramiv.The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) estimates HeartFlow can save the NHS approximately £9.1 million per yearv.

Under the ITP, the HeartFlow Analysis is currently available in 13 hospitals across the country with a view of being rolled out in more than 35 hospitals by the year’s end.

Currently, it takes most hospitals several weeks to diagnose and develop a treatment plan for coronary heart disease. HeartFlow may be able to help shorten this timeline. Using deep learning and state-of-the-art data processing following a coronary computed tomography (CT) scan, the HeartFlow Analysis creates a detailed digital 3D model of the patient’s arteries. It then applies advanced algorithms to solve millions of complex equations to assess the impact of any blockages on blood flow to the heart.

People experiencing chest pain should visit their GP or a rapid access chest pain clinic, where a physician can request a CT scan. If needed, a HeartFlow Analysis can be applied to CT scan results for patients.

Professor Tony Young, national clinical lead for innovation, NHS England, said: “To allow exciting innovations to flourish and spread, NHS England has footed the bill for a select group of products, such as the HeartFlow Analysis which could reduce the need for invasive tests, so patients can benefit faster.”

“From the very beginning the NHS has been at the forefront of driving innovation. As we look to develop our long-term plan, the NHS will continue to champion world-leading technology.”

Dr. Timothy Fairbairn, MBChB, FRCP, Ph.D., consultant cardiologist, Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, said: “This technology has exciting benefits for patients, physicians and the NHS. It helps to diagnose coronary heart disease more quickly and more effectively whilst reducing reliance on more invasive procedures. In Liverpool, we have seen how the clinical introduction of the HeartFlow technology is helping improve patient management by reducing waiting times and positively influencing clinical decision making.”