A new noninvasive way to view coronary artery disease
In the past, the recognized “gold standard” for detecting atherosclerotic plaque was the use of invasive coronary angiography (cardiac catheterization). Now, advances in computed tomography (CT) scan technology allow us to use this noninvasive tool in the detection of coronary artery disease.
As leaders in the detection and treatment of cardiovascular diseases, the Nebraska Heart Institute has opened a dedicated center for cardiovascular CT imaging, located on the campus of the Nebraska Heart Hospital.
The Nebraska Heart Institute is one of the first centers in the region with this technology, enhancing patient care by offering the state-of-the-art 64-slice CT scanner. We now are able to noninvasively image the coronary arteries and other vessels. The 64-slice CT technology represents an innovation of great magnitude that allows for information to be obtained faster and more accurately than ever before. This allows us to view the coronary arteries without having to utilize a catheter and to obtain a three-dimensional image of the heart. With this new 64-slice technology, the entire heart can be imaged with a breath hold of 8 to 10 seconds when previously it required 25 or more seconds.
What happens during the examination?
The patient will be lying on a table, which will move the patient slowly through the opening of the CT unit. A contrast medium administered through a small IV line will be used to highlight the blood vessels. The technologist will periodically ask the patient to briefly hold their breath. During this process, the CT scanner will take extremely detailed cross-sectional images which are used to generate the pictures from which the physicians make their diagnosis. Patients can expect the scanning process to take 10 to 15 minutes.
Who should receive CT Coronary Angiography?
CT coronary angiography may be recommended for many patients including those with a family history of heart disease and those who suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity or diabetes. Additional indications are:
- Evaluation of chest pain
- Evaluation of progression of coronary artery disease
- Assessment of coronary artery bypass grafts
- Follow-up to a stress test
The decision whether a patient undergoes CT coronary angiography will be made in consultation with the patient’s primary care physician and a NHI cardiologist.
During the exam, hundreds of images are taken to create a picture to aid in diagnosis. These images will be interpreted by a board certified cardiologist specifically trained in cardiovascular CT. Within twenty-four hours, the cardiologist will share the results with the patient’s primary care physician for follow-up care.