A new type of non-invasive imaging test may help prevent heart attacks. Known as Low-Dose Coronary CT Angiogram (CTA), the test uses less radiation than conventional imaging tests and may help detect heart disease certain asymptomatic patients.
The coronary CTA uses advanced CT technology, along with intravenous (IV) contrast material (dye), to obtain high-resolution, three-dimensional pictures of the moving heart and large vessels. It is a non-invasive imaging test that can be used to determine if fatty deposits or calcium deposits have built up in the coronary arteries—the arteries that supply blood directly to the heart muscle.
A less complex scan–the Coronary Calcium Scan not requiring any injection–is very useful when you’re looking at an asymptomatic patient who may have a calcium buildup over the years. But symptoms such as chest or unexplained arm pain, nausea, indigestion, fatigue, or shortness of breath, could indicate the risk of an impending heart attack. In this circumstance the coronary CT angiogram may be useful, because a heart attack is usually caused by the rupture of non-calcified plaques that are not seen by the coronary calcium scan.
Researchers at the S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center at Cedars-Sinai have also developed a way in which the coronary CTA can be used in asymptomatic patients who are concerned about radiation exposure. Their “Mini-dose CCTA” uses x-rays produced during only 1/10th of the cardiac cycle and results in 1/10th of the radiation of a full coronary CT angiograms. The cost is often less than the standard coronary CTA, because it is simpler, quicker, and less complex to interpret.
Some major risk factors for coronary artery disease, other than an advanced age, include the following:
*a family history of heart disease
*high blood pressure
*cigarette smoking or former cigarette smoking
*inactivity and obesity
*previous heart attack or mini stroke
*atypical symptoms, which women are more prone to
Heart attack is the leading cause of death for American women, and the American Heart Association has reported that half of all women will eventually die of heart-related diseases. Nearly twice as many women in the United States die of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases as from all forms of cancer, including breast cancer.