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Should You Have a Heart Scan?

Have you ever wondered if you could actually look inside your heart and coronary arteries to determine exactly what your risk is for a heart attack?  What was once only fantasy is now possible with the "virtual reality" of the ultrafast CT scan.  This is a simple-but expensive--non-invasive test which can show you if you have potential cardiac problems in a few minutes.  Also called an electron beam tomography or EBT, this test precisely measures tiny microcalcifications and plaque build-up on the walls of the coronary arteries which can eventually cause blockages.  After measuring the amount of build-up, each test gets a score.  Based upon this score, your physician can recommend appropriate preventive and treatment steps.

This test is not for everyone.  First of all, its cost of $500 is not usually covered by insurance.  Second of all, not every adult is at increased risk for cardiac disease.  This test may be helpful, however, for asymptomatic patients with cardiac risk factors such as a family history of heart disease.  For these patients, other screening tests such as stress tests are not always reliable:  stress tests have nearly a 25% false negative rate in men-and even higher in women.  That means that many patients with potential cardiac problems are being missed.

You don't need any special testing to reduce the most significant cardiac risk factors.  If you smoke, stop.  Maintain a healthy body weight.   And, increase your amount of aerobic exercise.

For more information, click here.

Created: 7/2/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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