High-tech scan for blocked arteries matches conventional tests in finding root of symptoms


"This analysis should help settle at least part of the debate over EBCT's value compared with other methods of detecting arterial blockages in symptomatic patients," says lead author Brahmajee Nallamothu, M.D., M.P.H., a U-M cardiology fellow. "Frankly, we were surprised that the test showed this level of reliability in diagnosing coronary artery disease in these patients."

Adds co-author Mark Fendrick, M.D., "Now that we have an indication that this test is worthwhile for symptomatic patients, we hope our result will lead others to study its cost effectiveness, and its accuracy in diagnosing coronary artery disease among asymptomatic patients." Fendrick co-directs the U-M's Consortium for Health Outcomes, Innovation and Cost-Effectiveness Studies.

Co-author Melvyn Rubenfire, M.D., director of the UMHS Preventive Cardiology program, says, "Additionally, the data regarding increasing risk of coronary events with increasing calcium scores is convincing enough to use EBCT as an adjunct to standard risk factor assessment when deciding who would benefit from cholesterol-lowering drug therapy."

EBCT, which uses an electron beam and a CT scanner to make split-second images from various angles around the patient, is now used at more than 150 medical and imaging centers around the world for various imaging purposes. Since the heart and nearby blood vessels are always in motion, EBCT has been seen as an especially good tool for capturing cardiovascular images because of its ability to scan quickly and to be linked to a patient's heartbeat.

But though the technique has been studied by many researchers and judged accurate by the American Heart Association, its use for diagnosis and screening has not yet been completely accepted, or approved by insurers. The machine's cost has been prohibitive for many centers. And, its inability to spot plaques that aren't calcified, or to distinguish easily between plaques and the normal calcium that builds up in

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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