Scientists say a new scan technique could identify people at risk of collapsing and dying suddenly from a hidden heart condition.
Normally, in people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, signs of structural changes in the heart can only be picked up after death.
But University of Oxford researchers used microscopic imaging to spot the same patterns in living patients.
The condition is the top cause of sudden cardiac death in young people.
It is a common, inherited condition, affecting one in 500 people in the UK, which can be fatal in small numbers of people.
Yet many of those with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM, have few or no warning symptoms – and some are able to lead perfectly normal lives.
The research team focused on detecting those at risk of sudden death, by looking for abnormal fibre patterns in the heart which could lead to potentially deadly heart rhythms.
This is thought to affect around 1% of people with the condition.
They can then have a small device implanted in their heart to kick-start it into beating again when an abnormal heart rhythm is detected.
Dr Rina Ariga, study author and cardiologist at University of Oxford, said: “We’re hopeful that this new scan will improve the way we identify high-risk patients, so that they can receive an implantable cardioverter defibrillator early to prevent sudden death.”
She added: “We now need to work on making this scan shorter and faster for patients so that we can test its utility in a large multi-centre study.” -BBC