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AIIMS Delhi Introduces Free Rapid Cardiac MRI Service for Thalassemia Patients

Written by : Jayati Dubey

November 3, 2023

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India, home to an estimated 42 million beta-thalassemia carriers and 10,000 new cases annually, faces a clear need for improved screening and monitoring. Thalassemia patients can now access early detection to prevent cardiac complications.

In a recent initiative, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi has initiated offering a free-of-cost rapid cardiac MRI service for patients with thalassemia. This service, which assesses the amount of iron deposition in the cardiac muscle, can be completed in just eight minutes, transforming how thalassemia patients are screened and monitored.

Dr Priya Jagia, the head of the Department of Cardiovascular Radiology at AIIMS, announced this development as part of a collaboration project with the University College London (UCL).

"This unique MRI protocol, developed by Professor James Moon and his team in the UK, can measure cardiac iron in around eight minutes (a major reduction in time as a standard cardiac MRI takes 45 about minutes). Thus, 50 patients can be scanned easily within a day as part of surveillance/screening camps for thalassemia patients. This service is currently being provided free of cost to all thalassemia patients at AIIMS," Dr Jagia added.

Thalassemia is a genetic blood disorder that affects millions of people worldwide, with a substantial number residing in India. It primarily affects children who require lifelong blood transfusions. While these transfusions are life-saving, they introduce excess iron into the body, leading to iron deposition in various organs, including the liver, heart, and pancreas.

Cardiac iron deposition, in particular, is a major cause of cardiac dysfunction and mortality in thalassemia patients, accounting for 50-70% of deaths among this population.

Dr Tulika Seth, a professor in the Department of Hematology at AIIMS, emphasises the significance of measuring iron deposition in thalassemia patients.

She explains that while blood tests are commonly used to monitor iron levels, they may not accurately predict iron deposition in the cardiac muscle. The excess iron can potentially result in heart failure, underscoring the critical need for an efficient and accurate assessment method.

The newly introduced cardiac MRI service addresses this pressing issue, offering a quick and precise means of detecting cardiac iron deposition. This initiative can have a profound impact on thalassemia patients, potentially reducing mortality rates by up to 80%.

With an estimated 42 million beta-thalassemia carriers and 10,000 new cases reported annually in India, the need for effective screening and monitoring is evident. Thalassemia patients can now benefit from this specialised MRI technique, enabling early detection and intervention to prevent cardiac complications.

Dr Rima Dada, the professor in charge of the media cell at AIIMS Delhi, said, "Thalassemia patients sometimes study the liver iron, but do not study the deposition of iron in the heart which over time affects the functioning of the cardiac muscle. So what happens is liver iron may not correspond to the iron in the heart and sometimes the liver iron may be low and iron deposition in the heart may be high and the person goes into cardiac failure and they usually die by 22-25 years. If this is detected on time by this simple test, which in India outside AIIMS would cost about Rs 50,000, here they are doing totally free of cost."

As thalassemia continues to pose a significant health challenge in India and worldwide, this rapid cardiac MRI service is a testament to the power of innovation in healthcare and a beacon of hope for thalassemia patients and their families.

In another development, AIIMS recently collaborated with Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (GGSIPU) to introduce a Patient Grievance Redressal System.

The holistic scope of the "Patient Grievance Redressal System" spans numerous facets of healthcare delivery. It encompasses patient treatment, clinical practices, nursing care, welfare scheme implementation, sanitation, security, infrastructure, and facility management.


About Chime India

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) is an executive organization dedicated to serving senior digital health leaders. CHIME includes more than 5,000 members in 56 countries and two US territories and partners with over 150 healthcare IT businesses and professional services firms. CHIME enables its members and business partners to collaborate, exchange ideas, develop professionally and advocate the effective use of information management to improve the health and care throughout the communities they serve. CHIME's members are chief information officers (CIOs), chief medical information officers (CMIOs), chief nursing information officers (CNIOs), chief innovation officers (CIOs), chief digital officers (CDOs), and other senior healthcare leaders. The CHIME India Chapter became the first international chapter outside North America in 2016 and is now a community of over 70+ members in India. For more information, please visit www.chimecentral.org

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