CT Heart Scan Reliable for Detecting Blocked Arteries

An international team of cardiac specialists, led by Johns Hopkins researchers, found that sophisticated computed tomography (CT) heart scans are almost as reliable as more invasive procedures.

The 64-slice CT scans, initially tested at Hopkins, will help cardiologists select patients who can avoid more invasive procedures. But the newer scans will not replace the cardiac catheterization, or coronary angiography, although perhaps 25% of the 1.3 million cardiac catheterizations performed annually in the U.S may be unnecessary.

In addition, the latest study showed that early detection with 64-CT would be a good forecaster of patients needing angioplasty or coronary bypass surgery.

Researchers chose 291 men and women over 40 years of age who already planned to have cardiac catheterization to check for blocked arteries. They were then checked to see who developed coronary artery disease, and who required subsequent bypass surgery. On average 91% of patients with blockages were detected by 64-CT scan, which also identified 83% without blockages. This accuracy, said researchers, enabled them to identify patients needing angioplasty or bypass surgery. More than 250,000 Americans undergo coronary bypass surgery annually.

"This study is the first step to realizing the full potential of CT imaging in predicting coronary artery disease, and these scans complement the arsenal of diagnostic tests available to physicians to prevent heart attacks," says cardiologist Julie Miller, M.D., who led the study at Hopkins.

"Use of 64-CT scans will dramatically improve our ability to detect and treat people with suspected coronary disease and chest pain much earlier in their disease," says cardiologist João Lima, M.D., senior investigator to the team whose findings will be presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) annual Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Florida. "Cardiac catheterization is still the gold standard for evaluating clogged arteries, but our results show that this test could easily be the best backup or alternative."

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

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