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Professor Dudley Pennell

Professor Dudley Pennell profile

Professor of cardiology 

Head of heart assessment



Professor Dudley Pennell has specialised in cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) for over 20 years. He is director of both the cardiovascular research centre and CMR unit at Royal Brompton Hospital.


He trained at St Thomas' and the London Chest hospitals in cardiology. Since 1987, Professor Pennell has specialised in cardiac MRI.

Areas of expertise

Professor Pennell's areas of expertise include:

  • dilated cardiomyopathy

  • cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR)

  • myocardial perfusion imaging

  • thalassemia

In this video, Professor Pennell discusses the Trust's research into dilated cardiomyopathy. 

Research interests

Professor Pennell's research interests include:

  • gene mapping
  • thalassemia
  • CMR techniques

Gene mapping

Professor Pennell has led on a major study mapping genes associated with inherited cardiac diseases. This involves sequencing all 200 known cardiac genes found in the human genome. The NHS Genetics and Genomics Laboratory opened in December 2011 by Jeremy Hunt. In 2010, the BBC reported on Professor Pennell mapping BBC medical correspondent Fergus Walsh's genes.

Thalassemia diagnosis and treatment

Thalassemia is a more common genetic disease. It causes defects in haemoglobin production, which can result in anaemia. It is most common with those of Meditterean, Middle Eastern, Southern Asian and African ancestry.


Each year, 60,000 children born inherit the condition from both parents and suffer from thalassemia major. These children need frequent blood transfusions and higher levels of medical care. These transfusions build up iron levels, especially in the liver and heart, which can lead to heart disease.


Professor Pennell is leading an international project, introducing CMR techniques across the world. This aims to increase life expectancy and quality of life for patients dealing with thalassemia.


Traditionally, blood samples or liver biopsies were used to diagnose iron build up in patients. This was until Professor Pennell and his team started using CMR imaging techniques. This technique is non-invasive and provides more accurate diagnosis. It also helps form the basis for new treatment options.

Italian trial

Professor Pennell and his team worked with Professor Renzo Galanello at the University of Cagliari on a major study in Sardinia. This study saw 167 patients scanned using Royal Brompton's mobile 1.5 Tesla MAGNETON Sonata scanner.


Based on their results, patients received different treatments. This study showed that an orally administered chelation therapy, Deferiprone, was more effective treating iron build up. This was compared to Deferoxamine, a traditional treatment that requires injections.


 "The trial gave us answers to how to prevent deaths from heart failure in thalassemia."
 Professor Dudley Pennell

Mortality for thalassemia patients

In 2000, 50 per cent of UK thalassemia patients would not reach the age of 35. Professor Pennell's new techniques have reduced the mortality rate by 80 per cent.


 "The mortality rate has also been decreasing dramatically in other countries, especially Italy and Cyprus, since the MRI technology and oral chelation therapy were introduced."
 Professor Dudley Pennell

This novel iron scanning technique has been adopted in over 50 countries, including:

  • Indonesia

  • United States of America

  • Sweden

  • Thailand

  • Hong Kong

  • Singapore

  • Oman

  • Lebanon

  • Turkey

  • India

  • Cyprus

  • Greece

  • Italy

  • Spain

  • China

Other areas looking at installing this technique include:

  • South America

  • the Middle East

  • South Asia

  • the Far East


Professor Pennell gives regular lectures at key international cardiology events.


In 2012, Professor Pennell received a gold medal by the Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance. This was in recognition to his outstanding achievement in CMR, as well as service to the Society. In 2014, Professor Pennell was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Services (F Med Sci).


Professor Pennell has published over 400 peer-reviewed papers on his specialisms. These include myocardial perfusion imaging and CMR for early diagnosis of myocardial iron overload.

In 2010, he his  contemporary review of cardiovascular magnetic resonance was published in Circulation.He also led on international guidelines on heart disease in thalassemia major from the American Heart Association. These were published in Circulation in 2013.


He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance.

Read more about Professor Pennell's research into scans for dilated cardiomyopathy patients on BBC News Online's coverage.

Watch a video presentation by Professor Pennell on using magnetic resonance imaging to identify iron levels in thalassaemia major patients.


Royal Brompton

Sydney Street,
London SW3 6NP
Tel: +44 (0)20 7352 8121