Love Your Heart: Coronary CT angiogram
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - You have probably heard of a stress test to determine any issues with your heart. However, here's another test that doctors say can give patients more ease of mind, and still know what is happening in their heart.
In November, Susan Nichols started having classic heart attack symptoms, including chest pains and shortness of breath. As a former paramedic, she knew something wasn't right.
"One morning, I got up and was really sick, it just felt off, and I took my blood pressure and my blood pressure was extremely high it was almost 200/128," Nichols said.
After a visit to the hospital, Dr. Ryan Masters suggested she get a coronary CT angiogram done.
"(It's) less invasive, I didn't have to be put to sleep or be cut on or anything like that, either. Dr. Masters explained by doing this CT scan on me, he would be able to see the vessels and see any blockage and see any issue that could or could not be there," Nichols said.
"It helps us to rule out or rule in if somebody has a significant blockage," said Nichols' doctor, Dr. Ryan Masters, an interventional cardiologist at Willis-Knighton.
A coronary CT angiogram is an alternative to a stress test. It's an imaging test, it looks at the arteries that supply blood to your heart.
Not like a stress test, where you usually are on a treadmill and have imaging taken before and after.
"A nuclear stress test is more of a yes-no, CT scan gives us an idea of the whole picture, where the blockage is, where the lesions are, and a good estimate of their significance," Dr. Masters said.
It's like a CAT scan and is non-invasive. It takes slices of images of your heart, giving doctors a clear picture of what is happening.
"Even if the CT scan doesn't show any significant blockages, it tells me if I have mild to moderate blockages, 30-40% blockages," Dr. Masters said. "Those 30-40% blockages will not be causing somebody symptoms, but they're at risk for heart disease, and that person we need to treat more aggressively, we do not get that information from a nuclear stress test."
"I think it's also easier for a patient to understand the results of a CT scan versus a nuclear stress test, it's a little more straightforward where we can give them an estimate of 'ok you have some blockage, here's where the blockage is,'" Dr. Masters added. "Versus a stress test, where 'ok, well this defect in this area lit up,' and it's a little bit more ambiguous for the patient."
Not everyone is the right candidate for a coronary CT, your doctor will be able to decide whether you should take a stress test or a coronary CT.
"Somebody who is 55, they've got risk factors, and I think their symptoms are more typical, and they are very worried about what their symptoms are. I may do a coronary CT scan on that person," Dr. Masters said.
The scan itself takes a short amount of time. Nichols' results turned up negative which she says gave her peace of mind.
"To me, that's even better because they're actually looking at that, they know what's there and what's not there," Nichols said.
The test won't tell you if your blockage is significant or not — just that you have one. Your doctor then may discuss further options on treatments.
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