Former world champion and 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans is to turn guinea pig by riding his bike inside an Magnetic Resonance Imagining (MRI) scanner to give researchers a benchmark of the effect of exercise on an elite athlete’s heart and lungs.
Researchers hope that obtaining an insight into how Evans’ cardiopulmanory system deals with physical exertion will help improve treatment for patients suffering from heart and lung disease.
Siemens, the manufacturer of the Magnetom Aera MRI scanner that will be used in the experiment to be undertaken at The Prince Charles Hospital (TPCH) in Brisbane say that it is the first time MRI imaging will be combined with an MRI bicycle ergometer.
The study is being led by Associate Professor Christian Hamilton-Craig, who says: “This advanced MRI scanning provides us with incredibly detailed images of the heart, and does so in the shortest possible time, even while the patient is still exercising inside the scanner.
He went on: “Exercise research on patients with heart and lung disease is being achieved through Siemens’ leadership in MRI technology, teamed with our hospital’s clinical and research expertise in the cardiopulmonary arena.
“The results are likely to change the way we diagnose and treat people with heart and lung disease. Scans will help inform us when the patient may need open heart surgery, a heart or lung transplant, or whether medications are working for the patient.
“By combining the very latest imaging technology, patient comfort and new imaging research software, this research provides the most detailed cardiac images in the shortest time.”
Evans, aged 36, said: “Through my work with Siemens, if I can raise awareness about how technology can better understand heart and lung disease and lead to improved treatments, then I know I’m helping reduce the strain on our hospitals for a more sustainable healthcare system.”
In January 2012, Evans and wife Chiara, who have homes in Switzerland and Australia, adopted a one-year old Ethiopian boy, Robel, who had been abandoned at the age of six months.
The BMC Racing rider reflected: “Since becoming a dad I’m very conscious about my health, and of ensuring that Australia has the best quality healthcare system for the future.
“Heart Foundation of Australia figures show that one person dies from heart or lung disease every 24 minutes – about the same time it takes me to complete a short time trial.
“I hope this technology and research will ultimately save lives.”
David Brown, vice president for imaging and clinical products at Siemens Australia, added: “This is the only facility in Australia where the technology can capture clear images of the heart at ultra-fast speed while exercising - similar to using a camera in ‘sports-mode’.
“Through our research partnership, the hospital is using the latest Siemens software which delivers high speed imaging. The patient-friendly design of our MRI scanner means there is enough room for a patient to pedal while being scanned.”
Since becoming the first Australian winner of the Tour de France two years ago, Evans has struggled to recapture that form.
His best result in a Grand Tour since then came in May's Giro d'Italia, where he finished third behind Astana's Vincenzo Nibali and Rigoberto Uran of Team Sky.
Evans was joined on the podium in Brescia by his son Robel (pictured).
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.