WEDNESDAY, July 25 (HealthDay News) -- Using a specialized type of CT scan can help doctors rule out heart attacks faster in people who've come to the emergency room with chest pain, researchers say.
The average length of time in the hospital was shortened by nearly eight hours for those who received the test called coronary computed tomographic angiography (CCTA), according to the study.
But, the scan isn't without its drawbacks as it increases the cost of care and may expose people to additional radiation.
"CCTA is a very powerful tool in terms of diagnosis and prognosis. You can look at the arteries of the heart, and very early on you know whether someone has coronary artery disease or not," explained the study's lead author, Dr. Udo Hoffmann, division head of cardiac imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital, and an associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School.
The study, which was funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, is published in the July 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
If a patient arrives at the emergency department with chest pain, they're hooked up to an electrocardiogram that shows their heart rhythm. If they are in the middle of having a heart attack, the EKG shows this. But, sometimes, it isn't conclusive. That's why doctors also use a blood test that measures levels of a biomarker called troponin. If troponin levels are elevated, the patient likely had a heart attack.
However, not everyone with chest pain shows clear signs of heart disease from these tests. "These are the patients where physicians need to rely on their judgment. They've presented with symptoms and possible risk factors that can't just be disregarded," Hoffmann said.
At this point, physicians can admit people into the hospital to have an exercise stress test. This test may show heart disease that an EKG or a
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