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Prof Tulika Seth and Prof Priya Jagia

AIIMS’ Rapid Cardiac MRI facility to reduce mortality in thalassemia patients

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi has launched  Rapid Cardiac MRI service, which can measure the degree of iron overload in cardiac muscle in patients with thalassemia in as little as eight minutes.

The nation's premier medical facility, in collaboration with University College of London, has taken the crucial initiative, which is available to patients in need free of cost. 

Prof. Priya Jagia, HoD, Cardiovascular Radiology, emphasized in an interview with Drug Today Medical Times that measuring iron deposition can improve thalassemia patients' treatment outcomes and even cut mortality by 80% while also doubling longevity.

Prof. Jagia made the following observation: "Heart problems are a major cause of death for patients with thalassemia, as their hearts are severely affected by iron overload." Therefore, people need to be aware of the iron buildup in the heart. 

Speaking about the test, Dr. Jagia described it as an eight-minute sequence in which the patient's iron deposition in the heart is measured using the T2* value, and chelation therapy is administered based on this value. 

The iron in the heart is eliminated by this therapy. Prof. Jagia advised that if the patient's iron deposition is found to be high, he should return in six months for a cardiac magnetic resonance imaging scan and receive appropriate follow-up. If, on the other hand, the deposition is found to be less than 20, he can continue taking his medication for an additional two years and need not schedule an MRI until after that time.

The most crucial aspect of this test, she continued, is that it only takes eight minutes, as opposed to nearly an hour for other MRIs. The cost of this test is another important factor that concerns the patient. 

"In India, the test costs approximately Rs 30,000, but at AIIMS, we are conducting it for free as part of our project with University College of London. The test costs range from Rs 50,000 to Rs l lakh abroad. For this test, we can see any patient who is not a patient of AIIMS. We will conduct about 2,000 tests as part of this project, Prof. Jagia emphasized. 

"Apart from that, I would also like to announce that any hospital that is willing to come to us and we will train them for their health care professions in order to learn this test," the speaker continued. 

This facility serves patients with thalassemia major who receive monthly blood transfusions, which cause blood to build up in the heart and other organs' muscles. Between the ages of twenty-five and forty, the majority of these patients survive. Thalassemia patients now have longer life expectancies, according to research done on this project in the UK. That's what we desire. Our patients with thalassemia should live longer, according to Prof Jagia. 

"Usually we use blood tests to diagnose iron deposition in the heart, but sometimes blood tests do not accurately predict the deposition," stated Dr. Tulika Seth, a professor in the department of hematology. Heart failure may result from this deposit. 

Patients with thalassemia are advised to undergo a T2* MRI every two years to determine the amount of iron deposits in their hearts. The rapid cardiac MRI machine can detect deposition in eight minutes, but the traditional T2* MRI took an hour or longer, and many patients were reluctant to undergo this test because they could not stay in the machine for that long," she continued.


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