One of the leading causes of death in American adults, claiming more than half a million lives each year, is coronary artery disease. A crucial step that physicians have to take is to establish the existence of this condition, and then its severity. This enables them to improve outcomes by better assessing the risk of cardiovascular events, rather than treat the problem after the event has occurred. In order to do this, it is necessary to obtain a clear picture of the heart.
Conventional Heart Testing
Historically, if a patient has presented potential symptoms of, or a risk for, coronary artery disease or other cardiovascular disease, assessment has involved stress testing and, in some cases, cardiac catheterization. The standard stress test allows doctors to see how the heart performs during physical exertion, like riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill. Cardiac catheterization is a method of examining the structures in the heart, such as the chambers and valves, using contrast dye. The procedure requires a catheter to be passed through the arm or groin to the heart.
In recent years, we have seen a number of advances in imaging, and we now have ways to observe the heart and its various structures without invasive procedures. Doctors are able to obtain the same degree of data to assess the risk or presence of coronary artery disease using the most appropriate noninvasive imaging technique, such as computed tomography or stress echocardiography. Most recently, scientists have developed ways to visualize cardiac structures using multislice computed tomography, as well as MRI.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging offers a comprehensive evaluation of important structures and functions, including the analysis of cardiac wall motion, ventricular systolic function, and myocardial perfusion under stress.
- Cardiac calcium scanning is important to the diagnosis or risk assessment of coronary heart disease, as calcification in the arteries of the heart inhibits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. This scan can now be performed with cardiac computed technology that is completely non-invasive, and therefore less risky for the patient. This form of imaging can be combined with other methods in order to obtain the greatest amount of information to evaluate the characteristics of atherosclerotic coronary disease.
Having multiple imaging technologies is significant because no single form of imaging is appropriate in every scenario. To learn about the options available at Island Medical Imaging, call 409-747-0100.
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