"It saved my life." Read more about Edward's Ultra Fast Heart Scan.
From the December 2009/January 2010 issue of Naperville Magazine:
by Barbara C. Neff
Ask Barb Hunt about Edward Heart Hospital's Ultra Fast Heart Scan and she gushes.
"It saved my life," she says. "It absolutely saved my life."
Hunt, 59 at the time, was hiking up a mountain in Palm Springs when she first suspected something was wrong. "I was in pretty good shape, but I found myself pretty breathless," she says. She also had strong history of early heart disease in her family, with her father dying of it in his 30s and a brother at 43. Not wanting to take chances, she headed to Edward for a scan after her trip.
The Ultra Fast Heart Scan is a screening tool for detecting the early build-up of calcium in coronary arteries-the most common cause of heart disease, which occurs when plaque builds up and calcifies. "Edward uses the EBCT, or electron beam computed tomography, which is the gold standard," says Julie Losasso, a nurse and Edward's manager of education and prevention. "It tells you how much calcium you have and, based on that, it gives your risk for heart disease."
The scan takes 40 visual slices of the heart and looks at each slice. "EBCT is the only technology fast enough to take pictures of a beating heart," Losasso says. "It takes better, more accurate pictures than other CT scans." Unlike simple stress tests, the scan can pick up blockages that are less than 70 percent, giving patients a head start on addressing them.
The test is painless, safe and non-invasive. The patient lies on a table in an open cylinder and is hooked up to three electrodes that monitor the heart. The scan itself takes only 15 minutes. The session also includes a free cholesterol test, glucose (or blood sugar) measurement, blood pressure check and body mass index (BMI) reading. A cardiac nurse then provides a 10-year risk assessment for heart disease.
Hunt's cardiac nurse suggested she visit a cardiologist soon. After an angiogram, the cardiologist recommended surgery, and she had triple bypass surgery in May 2007, about a month later. "I was in the hospital for five days and did 12 weeks of cardiac rehabilitation," she says. "Then my husband and I went to Italy for three weeks in September."
The Ultra Fast Heart Scan may prove especially critical for patients with minimal or no symptoms of heart disease. Pat Bradley, the manager of the obstetrics department at Edward, went for a scan at her boss' suggestion. "I had experienced one incident of just a diffuse burning in my chest, not even as bad as heartburn, and I went in the next day," she says. That was a Tuesday. The following Tuesday, Bradley had triple bypass surgery.
At 58, Bradley thought of herself as basically healthy. Her cholesterol was slightly elevated, but she had been slowly reducing it through diet and exercise. Her score on the scan was extremely high, however, and further testing revealed serious blockages in three vessels.
"I never had chest pain, never had shortness of breath, never had any of that left arm or jaw pain typically associated with heart attacks," Bradley, a nurse, says. "With women, it's often nothing more than nausea or abdominal discomfort."
Because both Bradley and Hunt discovered their blockages relatively early, their heart muscles escaped the damage that can result from a heart attack. "The heart muscle itself was not damaged before surgery, so that makes your recovery and your progress much better," Bradley says. She was back at work in six weeks.
Edward Heart Hospital recommends the scan for men over age 40 and women over 45 who have one or more of the following risk factors:
-High blood pressure
-Family history of heart disease
Hunt tells people that a lack of symptoms shouldn't deter them from getting a scan: "My surgeon said that, for people like me who don't have a lot of symptoms, their first symptom is usually when their head hits the pavement."
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services