Diagnose Heart Disease with Breakthrough Technology in Taos

February 24, 2015

Using Computed Tomography (CT) to diagnose cardiovascular disease gives physicians the ability to project a patient’s future risk for heart attack or stroke before symptoms occur. Holy Cross Hospital has this technology.

The technology uses a state of the art 64-slice CT scanner and sophisticated software to detect heart disease before symptoms develop by creating detailed images of the heart. Numerous images are obtained in seconds, creating a three-dimensional view of the heart and blood vessels. These images can provide detailed information of the heart structure, and can demonstrate blockages of the coronary vessels. It is employed primarily for risk stratification and for diagnosis of coronary artery disease. In the right clinical setting, the diagnostic capabilities are an excellent alternative to invasive coronary cardiac catheterization.

Once these images are created, a radiologist and cardiologist evaluate those images to determine if the patient has heart disease. There are two different types of CT scans used to diagnosis heart disease:

  • CT Coronary Calcium Score
  • Coronary CT Angiogram (CCTA)

CT Coronary Calcium Score

A CT calcium-score screening uses special software to visualize and measure calcium deposits found in plaque (atherosclerotic) within the coronary arteries. It is used to estimate the presence and severity of coronary artery disease. The amount of calcium correlates with the overall severity of atherosclerosis in these arteries. This test is the most sensitive screening test for predicting future cardiac events.

Coronary CT Angiogram (CCTA)

This noninvasive heart imaging test is fast and reliable. It identifies and assesses the coronary arteries for narrowing that may impair blood flow. The study can also evaluate cardiac abnormalities, pericardial disease, and surrounding non-cardiac disease. These tests were previously performed using invasive catheter techniques. By using the CCTA, the images are created in minutes, with a much lower risk of any complications and with no recovery time.

During the CCTA an iodine-containing contrast dye is injected into an IV in the patient’s arm. This contrast agent highlights blood flow and thereby allowing visualization of the arteries and veins of the heart.

This technology re-creates cardiac function by synchronizing images to the heart beat. They can be played as a video clip that shows the movement of the heart during the heartbeat in addition to displaying the cardiac vessels. The test is most useful to evaluate a patient with possible cardiac symptoms and an intermediate risk of having heart disease (as determined by the cardiologist). CCTA is currently not used as a screening tool, and it cannot be used on patients with an irregular heartbeat.