Sports Cardiology 2

Knowledge of how the heart adapts to exercise and disease to be expanded by investment in research scholars and cardiac investigation techniques

The aim of the Sports Cardiology & Research Partnership, a team of leading UK academics and medical institutions, is to advance the detection of serious cardiac disease. A new round of investment announced by Canon Medical Systems UK to appoint additional research scholars and expand echocardiography ultrasound and cardiac MRI investigation techniques will push its quest forward.

In the last year, the research team, comprising of experts from the University of Bristol, Bristol Heart Institute, the Children’s Health & Exercise Research Centre/University of Exeter (CHERC), and the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health (ISEH) at University College London (UCL), has shaped international discussion on cardiac adaption in paediatric athletes, and exercise recommendations in children and adults with congenital heart disease. This has been through the publication of scientific papers1, guidelines and participation in global conferences.

New studies are ongoing to quantitively assess the cardiac function during exercise of highly trained sports stars of the future. With Canon Medical UK’s support, the Sports Cardiology & Research Partnership has been able to generate one of the world’s largest datasets on the cardiovascular profile of young football players from the world’s leading football clubs and academies. Early data was presented to the 2021 International Olympic Committee World Conference on Prevention of Injury & Illness in Sport, while other research is currently under peer review with several leading journals.

“By understanding how the heart works in the highly trained athlete, we are able to apply these findings to those with congenital heart disease, with the aim of being able to detect potentially serious adverse outcomes earlier and promoting a healthy lifestyle to those with underlying heart disease,” states Dr Nathan Riding, Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health and Canon Medical UK funded scholar. “Congenital heart disease affects approximately 1% of all live births but as surgeries are improved, and prognosis gets better, the number of children transitioning into adolescence and adulthood is increasing. By encouraging exercise adherence, our aim is to improve quality of life and life expectancy.”

Dr. Riding continues, “One hour of exercise per day is the recommended amount of activity time for a child without heart disease, yet just 23% of boys and 20% of girls aged 5 to 15 meet these targets. Children with congenital heart conditions are also failing to meet these activity guidelines, further impacted by a lack of formal exercise rehabilitation programmes which would be beneficial to them. At the opposite end of the spectrum, child athletes, especially those in sporting academies, may now be undertaking up to 16 hours per week of training, yet with unknown consequences on the heart. Our research is important for so many young people, from so many walks of life.”

Mark Hitchman, Managing Director of Canon Medical Systems UK states, “Unlocking knowledge from the body through research is essential to evolve our understanding of how to improve mainstream health and wellbeing. Our increased investment in sports cardiology will not only benefit the sporting community, but also wider healthcare. We will be able to fine-tune our diagnostic imaging applications and health IT for cardiology and reshape procedures and protocols that can help improve people’s long-term outcomes.”

To further the early identification of pre-existing cardiac conditions, the Sports Cardiology & Research Partnership and Canon Medical are also continuing the roll out of the world’s first mobile cardiac laboratory. This is providing cardiovascular screening for athletes and sports people. In partnership with the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health at UCL, where the programme is led by Profs. Guido Pieles and Mathew Wilson, the mobile lab is able to look into heart health using the latest medical imaging and analysis tools to identify pre-existing cardiac conditions that may predispose an athlete to sudden cardiac death.

The Sports Cardiology & Research Partnership is led by Professor Guido Pieles, the team cardiologist for Manchester United, Prof Graham Stuart, a Football Association expert consultant cardiologist, and Prof Craig Williams, director of CHERC. The research centres at Bristol, Exeter and ISEH London are using state of the art echocardiographic equipment by Canon Medical Systems.

Picture caption 1: (Left to right) Dr Lynsey Forsythe, Research Fellow; Nurul Amir, PhD Student; Tim Palarm, Regional Manager – Ultrasound Sales at Canon Medical Systems UK; Curtis Wadey, PhD Student; Dr Dan Dorobantu, PhD student & Cardiologist; and Professor Craig Williams, Director of CHERC.

Picture caption 2: Sports Cardiology & Research Partnership perform a Cardiopulmonary exercise test in combination with echocardiography.

Imaging equipment partnerships built by listening and responding to needs

Time is short and pressures are high – yet by having quality diagnostic imaging equipment in place, demands of busy working days in the health service can be eased. Over 80% of respondents to a new Canon Medical Systems UK customer satisfaction survey* felt that they were understood and genuinely cared about, with the products, service and support they have chosen enabling them to do their jobs as well as possible. This is four out of five sonographers, radiographers, imaging service managers and radiologists feeling that they have an imaging partner that understands the current challenges of healthcare, the NHS and its patients.

Product performance was cited as the key reason NHS and independent healthcare users and decision makers selected Canon Medical UK as an imaging partner, with quality of equipment and support being the most valuable elements of the relationship. Customer service and clinical training also scores highly in the independently run bi-annual customer survey, with ‘responsiveness’ and ‘easy to do business with’ frequently mentioned.

There has been a shift in tone since the last survey of this kind in 2018, reflecting the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic stretching frontline diagnostic imaging personnel. An onus on working to alleviate common pain points experienced by imaging departments, as well as preparing for the future via healthcare innovation is now key. This could include expansion of remote support services to pre-empt equipment breakdowns early; innovation in applications enabling more patients to be seen during the working day; the development of AI-assisted technology for greater image quality at low dose to enhance clinical confidence first time without retakes; and automation of routine workflow steps, freeing up time to focus on more complex procedures or cases.

“Focusing on what is important to our customers, now and into the future is at the heart of Canon Medical UK’s company philosophy. We are listening and responding with quality imaging innovations that help speed up processes or create time efficiencies, at the same time as ensuring equipment is reliable and uptime is kept high. Indeed, our customers still rate our service and support highly, with 91% of customers getting the technical support they need,” states Mark Hitchman, Managing Director at Canon Medical Systems UK.

“Our employees go the extra mile – they are trained to offer the best knowledge and expertise in their respective fields. Training and education remain important to ensure that our customers can use their imaging equipment to full potential and benefit daily from the depth of functionality available on new and evolving product solutions. We are also developing our online education offering to ensure that our customers have access to a wide variety of resources that will assist them in their ongoing professional development,” adds Mark Hitchman.

Picture caption: Over 80% of respondents to a new Canon Medical Systems UK customer satisfaction survey felt that they were understood and genuinely cared about, with the products, service and support.