Scan helps prevent undetected heart issues


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN FISHER and editor ROB DIAZ

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on May 30, 2013 at 6:41 PM

Updated Thursday, May 30 at 6:41 PM

AUSTIN -- Heart CAT Scans are for people who may be heart healthy now but due to family history or other factors are curious about possible issues down the road.

It's not often you get to lay down on the job. After a recent Huffington Post article listed photojournalists as one of the most stressful jobs in America, KVUE's Jim Bergamo decided to get a Heart Healthy CAT Scan at the Seton Heart Institute.  

Cardiologist Tuan Nguyen watched the real time results just a few feet away. He says a stress test is better for patients already complaining of chest discomfort or shortness of breath, because walking on a treadmill can reproduce those symptoms. 

The Heart Healthy scan is used on people with no symptoms but due to family history or other risk factors may be developing plaque in their arteries and just not know it.

"By knowing that can we get in the way of that?" said Nguyen. "Can we make interventions to get in the way of that potential heart attack down the road?"  

So what is he looking for?

"The computer is literally programmed to look for calcium," said Nguyen.

Dr. Nguyen says when plaque occurs it damages the vessel wall. Calcium then forms like a scar to try to heal that damage. It shows up as a white spot amid the dark gray.

The scan takes less than five minutes. 

Now for the moment of truth.

"We're not seeing any calcium in that right coronary artery," said Nguyen.

Dr. Nguyen says Jim scored a zero. If it were a math test, he would have flunked. For a heart cat scan, it puts him at the head of the class.

"This is a perfect result at any age," said Nguyen. "When we see a score of zero it's the best score we have. It's indicative of no significant or blockage."  

Nguyen says anyone scoring zero has a less than one percent risk of developing heart issues within the next three to five years.

He says the Heart Healthy CAT Scan is recommended for men and women between the ages of 40 and 70.  The cost is $49.

Click here if you'd like to know more about the procedure.

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