Medical images of rounded hearts could be an early sign of cardiovascular disease.
The National Institutes of Health revealed research in the journal Med that suggests analysis of pictures of the shape of hearts could become a diagnostic tool.
David Ouyang, co-corresponding author or the study and a Smidt Heart Institute of Cedars-Sinair cardiologist, said: “These findings might allow physicians to gain greater clinical intuition on how patients are likely to do at a very rapid glance.”
The scientists used the shape and measurements of heart chambers, as well as anatomical changes, to determine a heightened risk of cardiomyopathy or other heart ailments.
They used machine learning and big data for their study, looking at the UK Biobank, which has clinical and genetic information on around half a million people. The researchers examined 38,000 participants who had normal MRI images of their hearts and made a correlation with those who went on to develop heart diseases based on subsequent medical records.
They discovered that those who had increased cardiac sphericity had a greater chance of future heart problems. There was also a link between the genetic drivers for heart roundness and cardiomyopathy.
Using deep-learning analysis, they determined that intrinsic heart muscle disease resulted in cardiac sphericity.
Mr Ouyang added: “Just as we’ve previously known that a bigger heart isn’t always better, we’re learning that a rounder heart is also not better.”
More data taken from medical imaging storage is required for greater analysis, according to the scientists, including ultrasound images instead of MRI screenings to see if these confirm what they have found already.
If further research can be carried out, this could help the 7.6 million people living with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK. It may also help to reduce the number of heart disease-related fatalities from one person every three minutes.