Provisional recommendations from the NICE medical technology advisory committee support using the new software called HeartFlow FFRCT in patients with stable recent chest pain that’s thought to be heart-related and who have an intermediate risk of heart disease.

Using HeartFlow FFRCT, data from standard cardiac CT scans are sent to a processing centre where virtual 3D models of the patient’s blood vessels are created, identifying any areas of narrowing that may require treatment.

It is estimated that up to 36,000 patients in England could benefit per year, and because the test avoids the need for more invasive and complicated investigations it could save the NHS more than £200 per patient.

Professor Carole Longson, director of the NICE centre for health technology evaluation, said: “Accurately diagnosing the cause of chest pain is important for ensuring that the affected person receives appropriate care and treatment.

“The preliminary view of the independent committee is that HeartFlow FFR CT is innovative and using it in practice may simplify the series of tests used to diagnose the condition. Based on the evidence that the committee considered, they concluded that the device is highly accurate in diagnosing coronary artery disease, and that it has the potential to reduce the need for invasive coronary investigations – which is good news for the patient.”

Coronary artery disease occurs when the major coronary arteries which provide oxygen-rich blood to the heart become narrowed or blocked.

The blood flow in a blocked or narrowed artery is lower than blood flow in an unaffected artery. The ratio of these two values provides the ‘fractional flow reserve’, which helps the clinician determine whether patients’ symptoms are caused by heart disease.