With bird's eye imaging, cardiologists see the earliest signs of heart disease or existing heart disease not diagnosed with other testing modalities.
"With one heartbeat, within one second, we can get an entire 3-D image of the heart that allows us to look at arteries and heart anatomy with excellent detail," exclaims Steven Mottl, D.O., medical director of non-invasive cardiology at The Heart Hospital Baylor Denton.
The facility started to employ its 256-slice CT scanner in January; and is the first of its kind in Denton County and the third in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Additionally, physicians can view the heart's anatomy, the pulmonary arteries and aorta and even the coronary arteries where atherosclerosis occurs.
"Patients and physicians are both frustrated that we have difficulty predicting a potential heart attack. With this type of study, it allows us to characterize the type of plaque a patient may have and use this information to predict whether a heart attack could occur. This allows us to select the patients that would benefit from more aggressive medications to lower their risk of having a heart attack, and eliminate the need for unnecessary additional testing in patients that are at low risk,” explains Mottl.
The 256-slice CT scanner requires only one second to scan the whole heart offering more information with each rotation, as opposed to four rotations when using a 64-slice CT scanner, or 16 rotations when using a 16-slice CT scanner. These older generation CT scanners require longer time to capture the image of the heart and require administration of medications to slow the heart rate to an accurate picture.
Another clear advantage to the 256-slice scanner is that patients are not required to hold their breath during the scan. Often, many patients struggle to maintain an adequate breath hold, which leads to un-interpretable images and possible need to repeat the scan. Some patients, especially children, sometimes require the use of sedation medications for imaging on older CT scanners.
While reducing heart disease with earlier diagnoses is one objective, reducing potential radiation exposure during the imaging procedure is just as if not more important. According to Mottl, medical radiation for tests such as a CT scan are the cause for up to 50 percent of an individual's life time radiation exposure, and thought to be responsible for two percent of all cancers and much higher prevalence of cataracts. The 256-slice CT scanner can provide cardiologists a picture of the human heart with 60 percent less radiation exposure than older CT scan technology on average and in some patients greater than 90 percent reduction.
"With a 64-slice CT scan, the radiation exposure can be compared to having a few thousand chest X-rays. With the newer 256-slice CT technology, the radiation exposure would be equal to 100 chest X-rays," said Mottl.
The new 256-slice CT scanner also offers diagnostic uses beyond diagnosing heart disease.
"This scan allows us to look at vascular disease from the head to the foot. The scanner's superior resolution allows us to more accurately look for disease in vessels like the renal arteries, carotid arteries, or arteries of the legs,” adds medical director of radiology at The Heart Hospital Baylor Denton, Steven Reiman, M.D.