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Washington Hospital Cardiologist Presents at Prestigious Conference

December 03, 2013

Local Doctor Discusses Role of Ultrasound Imaging in Diagnosing Coronary Artery Disease

Dr. Ash Jain Discusses Heart Health at the World Health Organization in ViennaCardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). A Washington Hospital cardiologist was one of the presenters at a recent conference in Vienna that brought together health professionals from all over the world to discuss the most effective methods for the early detection of cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary artery disease.

Dr. Ash Jain, medical director of WHHS’ Invasive Vascular Imaging, medical co-director of WHHS’ Cardiac Care Service, medical director of WHHS’ Vascular Services Program, and a member of the Board of Directors for the American Heart Association, Western States Affiliate, spoke at the International Conference on Integrated Medical Imaging in Cardiovascular Diseases in October. The conference was held at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s headquarters in Vienna.

The conference was designed to provide an “interactive exchange and review” of the current status and latest developments in cardiovascular medical imaging worldwide, looking at radiation and sound, the two main methods of creating images of the heart. The conference drew an international audience of more than 350 participants from 91 countries.

“The annual conference focuses on medical imaging, but this is the first year they wanted specific cardiovascular input,” said Dr. Jain. “My presentation looked at advances in echocardiography for the diagnosis of coronary artery disease, one of the most common heart diseases.”

Echocardiography uses high-frequency sound waves called ultrasound to create images of the heart, he explained. It is routinely used in the diagnosis and management of heart disease.

“An echocardiogram is a very useful diagnostic tool,” he said. “We can see how the heart is functioning, whether it is pumping at full capacity, and assess any tissue damage that may have occurred.”

Radiation or Ultrasound

“The other method of viewing the heart is through radiation-based imaging, such as CT scans and nuclear scans,” Dr. Jain said. “CT scans use x-rays, a form of electromagnetic radiation, to produce a three-dimensional image of the heart.”

“With nuclear imaging, a radioactive substance called a tracer is injected into the bloodstream through a vein,” he explained. “The tracer travels to the heart and releases energy so that special cameras outside of the body can detect the energy and use it to create pictures of the heart.”

Dr. Jain said discussions like these are critical because cardiovascular diseases kill so many people in the United States and worldwide. In the U.S., heart disease is the number one cause of death, killing about 600,000 people every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The discussion was more of an analysis of ultrasound imaging vs. radiation-based imaging for cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Jain said. “We examined how each method benefits patients. However, the issue is not only about which one is better, but also about which one is more feasible. There were representatives from all over the world, and different countries are dealing with different issues, including cost. For the most part, hospitals in the U.S. use both methods, but for some institutions and some countries, the cost to provide both is prohibitive.”

An estimated 17.3 million people died from cardiovascular diseases worldwide in 2008, representing 30 percent of all global deaths, according to the WHO. Low and middle-income countries are disproportionally affected, with 80 percent of the deaths from cardiovascular diseases taking place in low- and middle-income countries.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency is planning to work with the WHO and the American Heart Association to set up imaging protocols to improve diagnostic abilities in third world counties,” Dr. Jain added.

For more information about the Heart Program at Washington Hospital, visit