Cardiovascular Imaging in Global Health Radiology
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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of death globally, and morbidity and mortality are highest in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) due to unavailability and unaffordability of medical resources for diagnosis and management of CVD. This has led to disastrous economic consequences on the individual, household, and societal level in these regions. Cardiovascular imaging is essential to the care of patients with CVD; however, access to cardiovascular imaging is very limited in low- and middle-income countries due to expense of equipment and challenges in training healthcare personnel to correctly order, acquire, and interpret studies. The state-of-the-art tools for cardiac imaging include echocardiography, coronary angiography and left ventriculography, nuclear imaging, cardiac computed tomography, and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging. Of the available cardiac imaging modalities, echo is the most widely used in LMICs because it is safe, portable, relatively inexpensive, and able to diagnose a variety of CVDs. Additionally, inexperienced practitioners can be trained to perform a focused cardiovascular exam by echo, for example, in screening for rheumatic heart disease, in a relatively short period. Handheld or pocket-sized echo machines are particularly useful, and the images can be interpreted locally or uploaded for remote interpretation by expert cardiologists. Instituting the infrastructure for cardiovascular imaging alone is not sufficient. Clinicians in LMICs must be trained to properly refer patients and interpret the results. Additionally, patients must have access to and be able to afford necessary medicines and surgeries for treatment of CVDs. In the future, the gap to CVD treatment in LMICs may be closed further by use of telemedicine and mobile cardiovascular imaging tools as well as continued international efforts to lower infrastructure costs and train local providers in its use.
KeywordsLow- and middle-income countries Cardiovascular imaging Telemedicine Echocardiography Ultrasound
Acquired immunodeficiency disease syndrome
Coronary artery calcium scores
Coronary artery disease
Cardiac computed tomography angiography
Congenital heart disease
Cardiac magnetic resonance
Electron-beam computed tomography
Gross domestic product
Hand-carried cardiac ultrasound
Human immunodeficiency virus
International Atomic and Energy Agency
Low- and middle-income countries
Multi-detector computed tomography
Myocardial perfusion imaging
Rheumatic heart disease
Single-photon emission computed tomography
World Health Organization
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