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Calcium Scan of Arteries Helps Spot Big Trouble
Date:7/29/2009

Study shows it predicts severe events in those with known heart disease

WEDNESDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) -- Adding a scan for calcium in the heart arteries to a standard test of blood vessel function helps predict which people with known coronary disease are likely to develop serious problems, a new German study indicates.

"The combination of myocardial SPECT and coronary artery calcium scoring could help identify those who are at highest risk for subsequent fatal cardiac events in a long-term outcome," said study author Dr. Marcus Hacker, an associate professor of nuclear medicine at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. His report appears in the July 28 online edition of Radiology.

Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) uses radioactive material to provide three-dimensional images of heart arteries. It is widely used to diagnose heart conditions. A calcium scan, also using radioactive material, measures the amount of calcium in the walls of heart arteries as another indicator of potential coronary problems and is not generally used for such diagnoses.

The study of 260 people with known heart disease, including some who had already suffered heart attacks, compared the five-year incidence of severe cardiac events and the need for bypass surgery with results from the two tests.

The results showed that the participants with calcium scores above a certain level were at highest risk of death or major problems and were more likely to have bypass operations. "A CAC [calcium] score greater than 400 offered incremental prognostic value over the scintigraphic [SPECT] scores alone," the journal report said.

The study results indicate that calcium scans could become common tests after diagnosis of heart disease, Hacker said. "We suggest a status scan for calculating the coronary artery calcium score in patients shortly after the diagnosis of coronary artery disease or in combinatio
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