Monday, August 31, 2015

New non-invasive test may replace angiograms

More than 16 million adults have coronary artery disease in this country. This occurs when a buildup of plaque (sludge) narrows the blood supply to the heart, causing chest pain or in severe cases, a heart attack.

Blockages that reduce blood flow a small amount can be treated with cholesterol-lowering drugs of aspirin. More severe blockages require a stent or bypass surgery.

The measure of blood flow is call fractional flow reserve (FFR). Before now, checking this required a big-deal procedure in which a thin tube was inserted in the groin artery, pushed all the way to the heart, a thin wire then put in the blockage and a sensor measured the FFR.

But now, a test has been developed by HeartFlow Inc and approved by the FDA, which basically uses CT scan technology to measure FFR from outside the body.

The CT scans create a 3D model of the arteries and computer programs simulate blood flow to those arteries to see how blocked they are.

"This is a game changer," says cardiologist Mark Rabbat, MD, of Loyola. the Loyola University Medical Center is the first to offer this.

Will other hospitals be far behind?

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