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Significant non-coronary findings found during heart CT scans

A significant percentage of patients undergoing targeted CT of the heart have abnormalities outside the coronary arteries, some of which could be life threatening, and as a result need the experience of trained radiologists to interpret them, say researchers from the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center in Ann Arbor.

The researchers reviewed the heart CT scans of 98 patients. Non-coronary findings were discovered in 60 of the patients, 43 of whom had findings which were either significant or potentially significant. These types of findings included lung cancer and lung disease, aneurysms, emphysema, liver lesions, pancreatic masses and pulmonary embolism.

"The early pick-up of unexpected and potentially life-threatening findings such as early-stage lung cancer or an aneurysm can have a significant impact on early disease management and has the potential of improving patient prognosis," said Smita Patel, MD, assistant professor in radiology and lead researcher on the study.

According to the researchers, since these findings were unsuspected and occurred in parts of the body not targeted by for the scan, it is important for radiologists, who are trained in all aspects of diagnostic radiology, to read the scans. "Physicians in other disciplines do not undergo the rigorous training and testing in diagnostic radiology that radiologists do, and could therefore miss abnormalities altogether or misinterpret abnormalities that they do find," said Dr. Patel.

Dr. Patel will present the full results of the study on May 16 during the American Roentgen Ray Society Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA.


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