Local News

New Test May Help Detect Early Signs Of Heart Disease

Posted February 26, 2002 12:32 p.m. EST

— Most people do not realize they have heart disease until they have a heart attack. A new test could provide an early warning.

Coronary calcium scoring is a relatively new test designed to detect the early signs of heart disease.

"Hopefully, before they've begun to have symptoms or have a heart attack," said Dr. Thomas Presson of Wake Radiology.

Technologists take a CAT scan of the heart and measure calcium levels inside the coronary arteries. The test lasts about 10 seconds, and the scan is ready to be scored in minutes.

Results range from zero risk on up. Age and gender also influence the score.

"A score of 20 in a 30-year-old patient is much different than a score of 20 in a 60-year-old patient," Presson said.

Because African-American men have an increased risk of heart disease, Health Team Medical Expert Dr. Allen Mask opted for a heart scan. Within minutes he received the good news - a score of zero.

Some insurance carriers in other parts of the country will soon cover heart scans. For now, the out-of-pocket cost is around $350.

At Wake Radiology, most patients will be referred for a scan by their doctors.

Most doctors agree that while the scan does a good job of rating the risk of heart disease, how widely accepted it will become is not yet known.