AUSTIN -- For decades, cardiologists had only treadmill stress tests and family history to tell them if patients may be suffering from heart disease. Now, the HeartSaver CT scan shows them precisely how much plaque may be in the arteries. The technology may have saved the life of an Austin radio icon.
Anyone who’s ever tuned in to KLBJ FM in the morning knows to expect a lot of laughs from Dale Dudley and crew. However, Dudley isn’t afraid to tackle the serious subjects when they’re warranted, even if they hit close to home -- like the subject of heart disease. When his father died at 60 after a heart attack, Dudley was only in his 20s, so he wasn’t too concerned about family history catching up to him.
“You are not even thinking about stuff like that, about genetics,” said Dudley. “It doesn't cross your mind.”
But last year, it did cross his mind after he crossed paths with a sales rep in his own building. Heart Hospital of Austin wanted to promote its HeartSaver CT scan, a sort of X-ray machine for the heart, on the Dudley and Bob show. Part of the promotion called for Dudley to get the scan.
Dudley recalled his conversation with Dr. Stanley Wang, a clinical cardiologist at Heart Hospital of Austin and with Austin Heart. Dudley thought the conversation would just focus on the promotion.
“At the end of the conversation he told me, ‘I need to see you as soon as possible,’” said Dudley. “I asked, 'Why?' He said, ‘You have plaque on your lower descending artery, which feeds blood to the heart, and we call that the widow maker.’ When I heard 'widow maker,' it was one of those moments when you feel like you’re walking in a fog for a second.”
A perfect score for a HeartSaver CT scan is zero. But even a score of one indicates some plaque buildup, and preventive action needs to be taken. Dudley scored a 26.
“The HeartSaver scan is the closest thing we have to crystal ball,” said Wang.
According to Wang, the electronic, visual slices the HeartSaver CT scan provides eliminate what he says is the collective guesswork involving cholesterol, blood pressure and family history.
“Here, we’re taking very fine slices of the heart, maybe three to four millimeters, and getting a very accurate look at the arteries to determine if there’s plaque,” Dudley said. “It’s much better than guessing at whether you have plaque. We can simply measure it.”
Dudley says taking the five-minute scan may have saved his life because it showed quite clearly he had plaque in his arteries.
“You don’t want to see that, but when you do see that you have a plan of action,” Dudley said. “You face reality, and you go forward from there.”
Wang says it’s equally important for women to get the HeartSaver CT scan.
“The HeartSaver CT costs about as much a mammogram,” said Wang. “There’s about as much radiation as a mammogram, but it provides information about heart health. When you think about that, heart disease kills around 10 times the amount of women as breast cancer.”
The HeartSaver CT Scan costs about $200.
Go here for more about the HeartSaver CT Scan.