Anyone Had a Heart Scan? New study reveals benefits

HeartHawk
By HeartHawk Latest Reply 2011-11-09 00:18:08 -0600
Started 2011-06-10 22:18:58 -0500

I had a heart scan a long time ago before much was known about them and am glad I did even though my doctor did not think it was useful. A new study reveals they may prove to be a a powerful predictor of future cardiovascular events.

http://www.heartconnect.com/news-articles/229...

Have you had a heart scan? What did you find and what are your docs saying you should do about it?

HH

Tags: heart scan

16 replies

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2011-06-24 11:22:49 -0500 Report

I have not had the type of scan you describe or a stress test. However I had an ultrasound done of my heart last year when I was in the hospital. It was very interesting to watch. It showed my lower left area was slghtly enlarged. Despite heavy meds I remember the Dr. explaining it was probably not of much concern. The Vascular Surgeon I saw later did not think it was a problem either. I don't know how its measure of blood flow would compare with the CAT scan you are asking about. I know the surgeon used the Ultra Sound to determine the flow in my leg veins to determine my pumps ere bad in several major veins. I will be having a one year follow up appt. soon. I will ask him about this other test. He has a reputation as being one of the most thorough Thoracic Surgeons in the area. About the time he was treating me he successfully performed a surgery that has only been done a few times in recent history.

HeartHawk
HeartHawk 2011-06-24 23:26:42 -0500 Report

Graylin,

Thanks for the input and experience. The CAT scan I speak of does not measure blood flow, rather, it measures total plaque burden by quantifying the amount of calcium in yor coronary arteries.

Well over a decade ago Dr. John Rumberger discovered that roughly 20% of all plaques were composed of calcium. This calcium can be detected and a calcium score generated. It was later discovered that this scan could detect the earliest stages of heart disease well ahead of any severe symptoms and give patients ample time to prevent or even reverse the disease.

These discoveries were the basis (and the reason it has such a funny name) of the Track Your Plaque program I follow.

HH

redorangedog
redorangedog 2011-11-08 18:29:32 -0600 Report

Redorangedog, Too many false positives, then you need a cardiac cath. And, they are expensive, rarely covered by insurance and only shows the calcium, like you said, HeartHawk. They are of limited diagnostic value. I had one done years ago because of my family history.

clj01
clj01 2011-06-12 12:00:42 -0500 Report

Just read the reply from BrandonBob. I had a stress test similar to what you described that included a heart scan on two different days. It is because of the results of that test that I am now going to be having a cardiac cath this week. Yes I do believe that they have value.

redorangedog
redorangedog 2011-11-08 18:22:06 -0600 Report

Redorangedog, Good luck with your cardiac cath, they are very useful and can detect blockages and any heart damage from a prior MI. They do not hurt and only take a couple of minutes. Most of the time is in preparation for the test. You can watch, it is very interesting and you can view it like it is happening to someone else. Don't be afraid, it will make you tense and more difficult for the doctor. Mine was over in less than 2 minutes. There was no pain involved. And it is the best diagnostic tool your cardiologist has available. One scan shows the size of your heart. The echo shows your valves. Red

redorangedog
redorangedog 2011-11-08 18:09:36 -0600 Report

Redorangedog, I had the Ultra Fast C T Heart Scan many years ago. The problem that I heard was that were many false positive test results. Yes, it only measures the calcium plaque in your arteries. For a real picture of your heart an angiogram or cardiac cath is necessary. They don't hurt, my doctor was in and out in less than 2 minutes. Just relax and meditate so you do not become afraid. If you become afraid you can become tense and their is no reason to do so. They show an accurate picture of your coronary arteries and you can watch the whole process. It is an awesome sight. Red

HeartHawk
HeartHawk 2011-11-08 23:24:13 -0600 Report

red:

Here is why I feel that heart caths are inferior to calcium heart scans for heart attack prevention.

First, caths have real and immediate health risks as they are an invasive surgical procedure and expose you to a fair amount of radiation. But, the real problem in my opinion is that caths give too many false negatives!

Yes, a cath will tell you if an artery is narrowed where a calcium score will not (more on that later). However, most heart attacks occur at sites that do not significantly impede blood flow. How is that possible?

When arteries start to become diseased the plaque actually grows outward at first. This is called the Glagov Effect or what is known as artery remodeling as the artery attempts to remain open despite the early plaque formation. It is only at the very end stages of atherosclerosis, when the artery is no longer capable of remodeling, that it narrows and begins to impede blood flow. But, contrary to popular belief, most heart attacks occur because undetectable plaques in open arteries rupture and form clots.

Calcium scans almost never give a false positive as they are not meant to detect blockages. Any doctor who sells them as a test for blockages is a quack! Calcium scans should never be used as an excuse to put in a stent in the absence of other symptoms. They are designed to find hidden plaques (calcified plaques) that would not appear on a cath since they cause no appreciable blockage but nonetheless are vulnerable to rupture and are THE major cause of heart attacks.

So yes, a cath will detect immediate danger from a blockage and guide the cardiologist as to where a stent must be placed. But, from a preventive point of view, a heart scan is more valuable because it will tell you years in advance where vulnerable and dangerous plaques are growing long before narrowing begins. This gives you precious time to start aggressive prevention treatment well before narrowing - and a need for a cath or heart attack - occurs!

HH

HeartHawk
HeartHawk 2011-06-12 23:13:39 -0500 Report

clj,

Your test was similar to CRASH and BandonBob. This type of test detects reduced blood flow to different parts of the heart but is only sensitive when flow is reduced 70-80% which is fairly advanced heart disease. A calcium score catches early "silent" plaque years before blood flow starts to become reduced.

In fact, when heart disease begins, arteries undergo remodeling or what is known as the "Glagov effect" where the arteries actually expand to maintain blood flow. Nuclear stress tests and PET or SPECT scans will not detect this early stage of heart diseas as flow is not yet restricted.

HH

BandonBob
BandonBob 2011-06-12 10:03:23 -0500 Report

My PCP had me take a stress test which included the scan before and after. He said after 20 years of diabetes he didn't have a baseline for my heart. It was supposed to be routine. The first scan showed everything great and looking normal. Then I did the stress test laughing and joking witht he doctor as I walked. He finally gave up on gwtting the heart rate he wanted and had me lie back down for the second scan which showed that after the exercise the entire upper part of my heart was not working. End result - a triple bypass. The test turned out to be well worhtwhile as I had showed zero symptoms of any kind of problem prior to the test.

BandonBob
BandonBob 2011-11-07 11:23:54 -0600 Report

I have been off site a while or I would have answered you earlier. The test I had was not a nuclear stress test. It had an echocardiogram before starting, then I walked the treadmill, then immediately laid down for another echocradiogram of my heart exercising. Before the exercise my heart wotked nromally and after exercise the upper part was not working at all. Result triple bypass.caused by diabetes

HeartHawk
HeartHawk 2011-11-09 00:18:08 -0600 Report

Bob,

Yup, the same stress-echo I get every year. I find it superior to the older nuclear stress test because it involves no radiation. So far, so good!

HeartHawk
HeartHawk 2011-06-12 23:08:58 -0500 Report

Bob,

Same comment as I made to CRASH. Yours was part of a nuclear stress test with before and after SPECT or PET scans that require a radioactive tracer to be injected in your blood stream. A calcium score is done with a CAT Scanner "tuned" to detect calcified plaque and requires no treadmill or injections and is perfomed with a single scan.

HH

CRASH1219
CRASH1219 2011-06-11 13:24:35 -0500 Report

I had a heart scan once before the treadmill stress test and than after the test.The results showed that the left side of my heart was slightly enlarged but no clots,thank God.I just started going to see a heart doctor because of pain in my chest and he put me on amlodipene.This is all new to me and more will be learned I hope very soon.Should I expect more tests?Should I ask any questions that I cant think of right now?

HeartHawk
HeartHawk 2011-06-12 23:02:22 -0500 Report

Crash,

I should have been more specific. I believe you are referring to a nuclear stress test where they scan for injected radio-isotopes showing blood flow to the heart before and after a stress test.

The article I posted was for a specialed CAT scan that yields a calcium score. It does not show blood flow but rather measures calcified plaque burden in the heart arteries. It has be shown to be the best predictor of future cardiac events and catches even the earliest signs of heart disease even when blood flow is 100%.

HH

CRASH1219
CRASH1219 2011-06-17 11:38:23 -0500 Report

Thanks for clearing that up.The test you explained sounds good do you think BLUECROSS BLUESHIELD would let me get that test?Thanks HH.

HeartHawk
HeartHawk 2011-06-18 23:48:08 -0500 Report

Crash,

Ten years ago the "calcium score" was a new scan that was generally not recognized by insurance. But as the scientific evidence has come in more insurance companies are paying for it because prevention is almost always cheaper than treating after the fact. In fact, in Texas it is the law that insurance MUST cover it (a state legislator advanced the bill after h[s persponal experience with heart disease).

Bottom-line, you will have to ask your specific insurer.

HH

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