Are CT Heart Scans the Best Way to Detect Clogged Arteries?

Published: 15th December 2008
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There is much debate in the medical field whether a CT heart scan is indeed the best way to detect coronary blockages. Some researches say that it is typically the least complicated way, although its accuracy cannot yet replace the gold standard for finding clogged arteries, which is the angiogram. An angiogram requires running a catheter into the groin area and up through the arteries near the heart. It is considered a surgical procedure, and so it carries potential risk of complications, as well as some recovery time, as with any surgery. The procedure takes around 30 to 45 minutes, requires one hour of recovery, and carries the risk of very rare complications such as heart attack and stroke.

On the other hand, a CT heart scan takes literally just a few seconds. Using a number of CT scanners, doctors can get a detailed picture of the heart. Because it is not surgical, there is no anesthesia or recovery time required. The higher the number of detectors, the more detailed the image is. For example, the 64 slice CT scan gives a much more detailed image, and therefore much better results, than the previous "16 row" machines. Although the downside of this procedure is that they expose the patient to a certain amount of CT radiation.

A recent study by a group of medical researchers from Johns Hopkins found that of the 291 at risk patients for blocked arteries, 56% did indeed have angiogram-demonstrated coronary artery disease. The researchers found that the CT scans detected blockages 85% of the time, and 90% of these blockages were further detected by angiography. On the other hand, 13% of the patients were misclassified after the initial CT scan.

These findings have lead the researchers to conclude that at its present state, the CT angiography cannot replace conventional coronary angiography for patients. Rather, CT scans should serve as an "alternative diagnostic tool" which can help doctors like Los Angeles cardiology specialists identify blocked arteries, especially when patients are unable to undergo other tests.

More research and development on the CT heart scan is necessary in order to define its effectiveness and consider it a necessary role in patient care. You can schedule a consultation with a nearby Los Angeles cardiologist in order to discuss the best testing options for you by calling (310) 672-3900 or by visiting

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