Scanning for Heart Disease

HERSHEY – Heart disease is the nation’s single leading cause of death in men and women. According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 1.2 million Americans will have their first or recurrent coronary artery event this year. More alarmingly, approximately 452,000 of these patients will die.

Development of the latest generation 64-slice CT scanner has resulted in a major clinical breakthrough in the ability to diagnose atherosclerotic heart disease. Patients undergo a chest scan, a procedure called cardiac CT angiography or cardiac CT. The test is a noninvasive cardiac examination and evaluates patients for the presence or absence of coronary artery disease. Until recently, the only way to visualize the coronary arteries was by performing an invasive procedure referred to as a cardiac catheterization.

In addition to being able to assess for potential blockages in the coronary arteries, cardiac CT provides for the rapid assessment and “scoring” of coronary calcium, an important marker for the presence of atherosclerosis. CT angiography gives the patient and their physician information that will define the risk of having heart disease.

The newest dual-source scanner provides physicians with stunningly clear pictures of the heart and surrounding arteries while exposing patients to only about half of the radiation emitted by the most efficient single-source scanners.

That said, CT angiography still requires the use of an intravenous injection of contrast material (dye) along with exposure to X-ray radiation. Therefore stringent guidelines have been created in an effort to minimize risk and to identify those patients with the greatest benefit who might be considered for this study.

At Penn State Hershey Medical Center, cardiac CT scans are reviewed collaboratively by trained radiologists and cardiologists to foster a more comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan.

To learn more about cardiac CT or if you feel that you would be a candidate for this test, contact your primary care physician.

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