In a scientific statement to be published in the October 17 edition of Circulation and released on-line on October 2nd (http://circ.ahajournals.org/rapidaccess.shtml), an American Heart Association writing committee concludes that electron beam computed tomography (EBCT) is now established as a useful technique in identifying individuals with or at risk for coronary heart disease (CHD).
According to the lead author, Matthew Budoff, M.D., F.A.C.C., of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed), "Essentially, EBCT identifies calcium build-up or a plumbing problem in your heart. Our conclusions are very definitive that this is a test that's going to be useful in clinical practice."
The EBCT offers cardiologists a non-invasive method for determining a patient's coronary heart disease risk. A non-invasive 10 minute procedure, the test requires no needles, injection, or sedation and is completely painless. The radiation exposure is equivalent to a normal abdominal X-ray.
The most important guidance provided in the new document is in intermediate-risk patients. As other statements have concluded, patients at the lowest and highest risk do not benefit from coronary artery calcification (CAC) screening. But there is evidence that CT scans for calcium can play a significant role in predicting cardiac deaths and making treatment decisions for the millions of people in the middle-range of coronary risk. The findings are particularly significant because treatment decisions are the hardest to make for patients of middle risk.