Circulation: Single CT scan could diagnose heart disease

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Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston, S.C., have developed a dual-source CT scanner technique that enables comprehensive diagnosis of heart disease based on a single CT scan, according a report in the March 4 issue of Circulation.

“This technique could be the long coveted 'one-stop-shop' test that allows us to look at the heart vessels, heart function and heart blood flow with a single CT scan and within a single breath hold,” said U. Joseph Schoepf, MD, associate professor or radiology and cardiology, MUSC.

Comprehensive heart disease diagnosis is difficult because it requires not only a detailed view of structures like heart valves and blood vessels but also blood flow evaluation. Clinicians at most cardiovascular centers traditionally have relied on several imaging modalities, such as cardiac catheterization, nuclear medicine or magnetic resonance. While CT can provide images of heart structures, it cannot detect blood flow, according to the report.

Schoepf and colleagues added two x-ray spectrums, each emitting varying degrees of energy, like a series of x-rays, to gain a static image of the coronary arteries and the heart muscle. The dual-energy technique helps to map the blood distribution within the heart muscle and pinpoint areas with decreased blood supply, according to the researchers.

The technique requires only a single CT scan within one short breath hold of approximately 15 seconds or less. In addition to diagnosing heart disease, the CT scan also permits physicians to check for diseases in the lungs or chest wall, according to the researchers.

Based on initial observations, MUSC physicians have launched an intensive research project aimed at systemically comparing the new scanning technique to conventional methods for detecting decreased blood supply in the heart muscle.