Researchers from David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the US, have developed a new blood vessel-scanning approach to aid claustrophobic patients.

The new procedure intends to shorten the time taken for the magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) exam, which captures the blood vessels and requires around 30 minutes to one hour for completion.

Gadolinium-based contrast agents are commonly injected into the veins of the patients to get a clear picture of the vessels during MRA. As these dyes stay in the body for a short time, a patient has to wait in the scanner to enable the clinician to capture images when the dye enters the blood vessels.

David Geffen School of Medicine research fellow Dr Puja Shahrouki said: “Lengthy scans can be problematic for patients with even modest levels of claustrophobia who may refuse the test or ask for it to be stopped early.

“They also limit the number of patients that can be scanned each day. In addition, the usual gadolinium-based contrast agents can be an issue for patients with kidney problems.”

“Some of the scans were done in less than five minutes once the procedure started.”

For the new approach, the researchers used ferumoxytol as the contrast agent as it stays for a longer duration in the vascular system, removing the need for more time inside the scanner.

In a study performed with seven claustrophobic kidney failure patients aged between 11-63 years, the MRA scans using ferumoxytol were completed in an average of 6.27 minutes with no adverse events reported.

The scans were found to be of high quality and provided complete visualisation of the arterial and venous anatomy.

Dr Shahrouki added: “Despite being claustrophobic, all patients completed the MRA and the images could be used for diagnosis of the entire vascular system.

“Some of the scans were done in less than five minutes once the procedure started, making it much shorter than the tests currently used in medical practice.”