Heart CT Scans Safer and More Accurate

Flash heart CT scans display blood vessels and blood supply

(RxWiki News) Traditional heart CT scans have provided helpful information. However, a newer version of the scan is more accurate, faster and exposes patients to only a tenth of the unusual radiation.

The second generation 128 Slice Dual Source "Flash" CT lets doctors better view blood vessels in the heart and more accurately measure blood supply to the heart muscle.

For now, existing CT scans are still your best bet.

Dr. Gudrun M. Feuchtner, a study co-author, said the new exam is faster and more convienent for patients.  He said the Flash CT scan captures images of the entire heart in three tenths of a second, which is within one heartbeat. The conventional CT scan takes six seconds and several heartbeats.

Researchers conducted an early trial with 39 patients. They found that the newer CT scan allowed physicians to more easily view artery blockages and reduced blood flow to the heart. CT scans are typically used to pinpoint heart disease in conjunction with a contrast dye that includes radiation that allows medical personnel to highlight certain areas.

To check accuracy of the new imaging technique, the scan was compared to cardiac MRI and an invasive angiogram, which involved inserting a catheter through the groin or arm then into the heart.

As compared to cardiac MRI, the new CT procedure identified restricted blow flow between 78 percent and 95 percent of the time. The Flash CT had 90 percent accuracy in locating blockages as compared to invasive angiography.

When an additional Flash CT scan was taken after using contract dye, the accuracy improved to 95 percent.

Dr. Feuchtner said the new scan is particularly useful for advanced heart disease or diabetic patients with no symptoms, but that were found to have poor coronary blood flow. Since diabetes patients might have nerve damage, they don't always experience chest pains that are usually present with reduced blood flow to the heart. These patients could have a poor prognosis because they may not immediately seek treatment.

Researchers said that additional studies are needed before the technology is used widely.

The research was published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, a journal of the American Heart Association.

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Review Date: 
August 23, 2011