Technology to Diagnose Heart Disease in Early Stages Now Available at LRH
Lakes Regional Healthcare (LRH) now offers cardiac calcium scoring, which is a technology to diagnose heart disease in its early stages.
Coronary heart disease is caused by the buildup of plaque on the inside of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. Plaque is made up of excess cholesterol, calcium, fat, and other substances that float in blood and, over time, narrow the arteries or even close off blood flow to the heart. This process of plaque buildup is called hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. A heart attack results when blood flow is completely blocked, usually by a blood clot forming over a plaque that has broken open.
Cardiac calcium scoring is used for patients with risk factors for heart disease as well as those interested in preventative healthcare by locating a buildup of calcium, also known as hard plaque, on the walls of the arteries of the heart, and determining how severe it is. It is a screening study for those that have risk factors for heart disease but no clinical symptoms yet. The procedure is most often suggested for men aged 45 years and older and for women who are aged 55 and above. Some patients choose to have the test on their own to discover early-stage heart disease or reassure themselves.
The process involves using a special x-ray called a computed tomograhy (CT) scan to find the buildup of plaque. A CT scan takes images of the heart in thin sections. The images are recorded in a computer and can be saved for more study or printed out as photographs.
LRH Radiology Supervisor Tracy Evans said, We attach small discs called electrodes to your chest. The electrodes are connected to a monitor to check your heart rate during the exam. During the CT scan, you will lie on a table. The table slides into the round opening of the machine and the scanner moves around your body. You will be asked to hold your breath for approximately 20 seconds as a series of pictures are taken of your heart. The entire test usually takes less than 30 minutes.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death among both men and women in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, the lifetime risk of developing heart disease after age 40 is 49 percent for men and 32 percent for women. Men suffer heart attacks an average of 10 years earlier in life than women do, so men are at higher risk for heart disease at younger ages. However, as women approach the age of menopause, their risk of heart disease begins to rise and steadily rises with age. Risk factors for heart disease include:
Family history of heart disease
High blood pressure
Men over 45
LRH Vice President of Patient Care Connie Lange said, We have several ways to identify the incidence of heart disease. By evaluating and measuring the calcium build-up in your coronary arteries, the risk of heart attack is calculated. This information provides people the opportunity to seek treatment and make appropriate lifestyle changes and also gives them peace of mind that they are now in charge of their health. Early detection and modification of personal risk factors, such as cholesterol intake and smoking, can slow the progression of coronary artery disease and potentially impact the risk of having a heart attack.
Although cardiac calcium scoring provides diagnostic information for heart disease, it does have its limitations. Plaque that is not hard (also known as soft plaque) cannot be found with cardiac calcium scoring. Soft plaque is the earliest form of calcium buildup in the arteries of the heart and can also cause a heart attack. Not all health insurance plans cover the procedure.
For more information or to schedule a cardiac calcium scoring procedure, please call LRHs Radiology department at 712-336-8658.