HeartFlow® provides 3D images of coronary arteries without cardiac catheterization


A novel device has the potential to improve cardiac imaging for thousands of patients. The new technology, HeartFlow®, has advanced cardiac mapping capabilities. It provides 3D images of the coronary arteries without the need for invasive cardiac catheterization. The cardiovascular team at Allegheny Health Network has helped pioneer this advanced technology, dating back to its pilot study in 2016. Cleared by the FDA, HeartFlow® is another leading-edge option to provide high-quality cardiac care as efficiently and safely as possible.

Why do we need more cardiac imaging options?

Cardiac imaging has advanced rapidly over the last several decades. Still, there’s no perfect option for diagnosing patients with chest pain and other coronary artery blockage symptoms.

Patients who present with coronary artery disease symptoms often undergo cardiac catheterization, the current standard of care for diagnosis. While this approach offers excellent visualization of the coronary arteries, it is invasive, requires sedation and carries some risk of vascular injury or other complications.

Alternative testing options can be helpful but incomplete. For example, CT angiography can show a blockage anatomically but provides no information about functional effects. On the other hand, a stress test provides no anatomical information but can give insight into functional implications.

With these limited options, the field of cardiac imaging is primed for a less invasive, comprehensive imaging option.

What does HeartFlow® do?

HeartFlow leverages advanced technology and artificial intelligence (AI)-powered algorithms to create a color-coded 3D model of the coronary arteries. The model is constructed using routine coronary CT angiograms paired with functional assessments that calculate fractional flow reserve (FFR).

This technology provides significant patient benefits, including:

  • Access to a noninvasive testing option that accurately diagnoses coronary artery disease
  • No additional exposure to radiation
  • Streamlined experience, with fewer unnecessary tests or office visits

Early data has shown that HeartFlow can help avoid up to 61% of invasive cardiac catheterization and reduce overall health care costs by up to 58%.[1]

Propelling cardiac care into the future

Allegheny Health Network has been at the forefront of testing and implementing this innovative technology. A pilot study conducted within the network brought HeartFlow to Pennsylvania. The study included more than 100 patients who received successful coronary artery disease management with the help of HeartFlow.

Moneal Shah, MD, co-director of Cardiovascular MRI at Allegheny General Hospital, describes the technology as “new and unprecedented,” saying, “It’s a huge leap from the kind of information we used to get from a noninvasive test. HeartFlow can let us know whether the patient needs additional tests or procedures. Any time we can prevent unnecessary procedures, especially invasive procedures like heart catheterizations, then we reduce the risks for the patient.”

HeartFlow is reimbursed by CMS and most commercial insurance plans. If you have a patient who could benefit from HeartFlow technology, call (844) MD-REFER or make an online referral to one of our specialists.

[1] Douglas et al. Clinical outcomes of fractional flow reserve by computed tomographic angiography-guided diagnostic strategies vs. usual care in patients with suspected coronary artery disease: the prospective longitudinal trial of FFRCT:outcome and resource impacts study. Eur Heart J. 2015;36(47):3359 – 67.

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