Simple heart scan saved a life

Simple heart scan saved a life

For the past 20 years, Mary Ann Miska has been scheduling tests and procedures at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. Last year, she took a closer look at the hospital’s preventative services and made an appointment to take a cardiac calcium scoring test.

A cardiac calcium scoring test uses a CT scan to check for buildup of calcium in plaque on the walls of the arteries of the heart. The more calcification there is, the higher the risk for a future heart attack. In Miska’s case, it showed that blockage was present.

The test is used to check for heart disease at an early stage and to determine how severe it is, says Dr. Shoeb Sitafalwalla, cardiologist with the Advocate Heart Institute at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.

“The test lets us know that there is plaque buildup in the coronary arteries, but it does not tell us how severe the blockage is,” he says.

Because of the findings, additional testing, including a stress test, was performed.

Miska, who had led a sedentary life, received some bad news.

“I remember I could not endure four minutes on the treadmill,” she said. “My legs felt like lead.”

This was followed by an angiogram, which led to a stent placement in her right coronary artery due to a 99-percent blockage at the opening of her artery.

After surgery, Miska began cardiac rehabilitation, changed her nutrition and joined a fitness center. She said she lost 35 pounds and several dress sizes.

“I feel better than ever and moving forward,” Miska says. “The test is the best you can take to see if there’s a problem and catch it early.”

The calcium scoring test is simple and can be administered in 10 minutes. Dr. Sitafalwalla recommends that men and women over 45 who have a family history of heart disease talk to their doctors about taking the test.

“Let’s not wait for a heart attack to happen,” Dr. Sitafawalla says. “Let’s prevent it.”

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  1. I don’t see where her primary doctor had any role in her taking the scoring test—-why not???
    Is primary health care really that bad???

  2. Does the doctor really believe that stent prevented a heart attack? He needs to review to literature.

  3. Dr. Ashwani Garg

    Without knowing any specifics, one cannot second guess what the doctors did in the above case. What we do know, is that PCI (stenting/angioplasty) of chronic stable angina is somewhat controversial based on the following review:
    Despite the above comments on the article, I still suggest CT coronary calcium scoring for those at moderate risk. This provides a better framework for decision making and risk management. The MESA NHLBI study at has a “risk calculator” that takes into account the cholesterol, BP, coronary calcium score, etc. into a composite 10-year risk estimate which can be used to guide decisions such as medications, supplements, etc. One does not always have to have an angiogram/stress test based on a higher risk, but this opens up a detailed discussion with the doctor on what can be done. Everybody who is thinking of having or has had a calcium score should look up a documentary called “CNN: The Last Heart Attack with Sanjay Gupta” for examples of how to use this test and how to actually reduce the risks of heart disease. As Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn says, “Heart disease is a toothless paper tiger that need never exist”

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.