Combined Testing Better at Detecting Heart Risks

Combined Testing Better at Detecting Heart Risks

Reported November 06, 2009

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Doctors may be dismissing chest-pain patients prematurely. Experts say physicians relying on simply one test to assess heart health may be missing vital diagnostic information.

Experts suggest adding coronary artery calcium score (CACS) testing to single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scanning since new research shows combining the two techniques may better identify high long-term risks for coronary heart disease.

In a study of 1, 126 patients with no history of heart disease, about half the patients with a normal SPECT result had an at least moderately severe CACS reading. If doctors used the SPECT test alone, cardiac risk would not have been detected. Patients with a normal SPECT who had severe calcium scores exhibited a three-fold increased risk of death or heart disease.



“Typically, when a patient presents with chest pain and the [SPECT] test result is normal, we tell them everything looks fine, but this may not be the case,” John Mahmarian, M.D., principle investigator of the study and cardiologist in Houston, Texas, was quoted as saying. “If a large extent of calcium is present in the coronary arteries, which can’t be measured by functional SPECT imaging, he or she is at high long-term risk for a cardiac event. Based on our findings, using both tests to define risk is better than either test alone.”

Researchers add that although SPECT typically projects accurate short-term results, CACS is needed to predict long-term risks.

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), November 10, 2009