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Heart Scan Taking Center Stage in Sudden Cardiac Death

Wednesday, August 6, 2008 General News J E 4
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SACRAMENTO, Calif., Aug. 5 Each year, more than 310,000Americans die without even experiencing a symptom or indication of heartdisease, according to a 2008 report from the American Heart Association(1).It's called sudden cardiac death (SCD), the same tragic fate that awaited TimRussert and shocked the nation when the news commentator died suddenly of aheart attack in June.

"SCD victims don't feel any pain, they don't have time to get to a phone,and they die at their desk or on the kitchen floor. Their first symptom istheir last; that's the cruel nature of heart disease," said Dennis R. Breen,M.D., F.A.C.C., of Sacramento HeartScan.

Breen said Russert's death was a wake-up call for millions of baby boomersand for the medical community as a whole. The hard reality is that half of allmen and 64 percent of women who died suddenly of coronary artery disease hadno previous symptoms of the disease(2).

Breen realizes there are no easy answers, and using the coronary calciumscore doesn't mean ignoring the standard risk factors. However, he's alsoquick to point out that the coronary calcium score from a CT heart scan playsan important role when trying to figure out a patient's risk of heart attack,and it can help give people concerned about their risk of sudden cardiac deatha fighting chance.

"Our health care system today continues to rely on largely inadequatetechnology -- including the traditional stress test -- that only shows dangersigns when the arteries are obstructed by 70 percent or more," said Breen. "Asuccessful cardiac stress test can actually give patients a false sense ofsecurity. It doesn't mean you don't have heart disease, and it doesn't meanyou can't walk out of that test and weeks, days or even hours later, drop deadfrom a heart attack."

Heart scans use computed tomography (CT) machines to non-invasively viewthe arteries, searching for calcium buildup that indicates the metabolic andinflammatory disease called atherosclerosis. The higher the score, the higherthe risk of heart attack or stroke.

Candidates for a heart scan are generally 40 years or older and may haverisk factors including high blood pressure, a history of smoking, obesity,physical inactivity, a family history of heart disease and diabetes. Medicaregenerally covers the cost of a heart scan for people over 65 with aphysician's referral. For people under 65 the cost is approximately $300 to$400.

"A heart scan is the closest thing to a crystal ball we have in the 21stcentury. It can predict the likelihood of future heart attacks," Breen added.

Sacramento HeartScan is one of a limited number of cardiovascular centersin the U.S. using the GE Light Speed VCT scanner for the early detection ofheart disease, osteoporosis and certain cancers. For more information aboutheart scans, contact Sacramento HeartScan at 916-830-2045 or visithttp://www.sacheart.com/ct/heartscan.html.

About Sacramento HeartScan

Sacramento HeartScan is part of the Sacramento Heart Center, the area'spremier integrated cardiac facility, providing complete cardiology andwellness care plus a full range of diagnostic and laboratory services.Sacramento HeartScan is one of a limited number of cardiovascular centers inthe United States using the Light Speed VCT 64-slice scanner for detection ofdisease. Sacramento HeartScan purchased the 64-slice CT scanner, replacing the16-slice CT scanner, which can uncover early stages of disorders such as:heart disease, lung disease and certain cancers. Sacramento Heart & VascularMedical Associates, developers of the Sacramento Heart Center, is affiliatedwith most health care systems in Sacramento. For more information or to makean appointment, visit http://www.sacheart.com/ct/heartscan.html or call916-830-2045.(1) American Heart Association. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics. 2008 Update. http://www.
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