CT Program Offers Noninvasive Way to Diagnose Coronary Artery Disease
Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia is among the first in the city to offer a noninvasive, accurate method to detect significant coronary artery disease (CAD), which is the nation’s leading cause of death.
Einstein now utilizes the HeartFlow Analysis, a first-of-its-kind, noninvasive technology to aid physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of CAD. The disease develops when the arteries leading to the heart narrow or become blocked, which can reduce the blood flow to the heart, causing chest pain, heart attacks and death.
Traditionally, the disease has been detected during an invasive procedure – an angiogram performed during cardiac catheterization, in which dye is injected to visualize the coronary arteries – or by using noninvasive diagnostic stress tests.
“Historically, we have been faced with putting a patient through an invasive procedure to determine if a blocked artery is significant enough to warrant a stent to restore blood flow,” says Einstein cardiologist Leandro Slipczuk, MD. “The HeartFlow Analysis changes this paradigm, providing essential information that can help us tailor the best therapy for the individual patient using a noninvasive platform.”
The HeartFlow Analysis uses a patient’s CT scan to create a personalized, digital 3D model of the patient’s coronary arteries. It then uses powerful computer algorithms to simulate blood flow and assess the impact of blockages on blood flow to the heart. The analysis is provided to the patient’s physician within hours through a secure web page and mobile app.
The technology allowed Miriam Mirano, 68, of North Philadelphia, to avoid an invasive cardiac cath to determine whether she needed a stent to open her arteries. Mirano had complained to Dr. Slipczuk of fatigue, leg cramps and chest pain. “I couldn’t walk a whole block without getting out of breath and having problems with my legs,” she says.
The HeartFlow Analysis determined that, for now, she didn’t require a stent. She was pleased both about the procedure and the outcome. “I was relieved,” she says. “I was happy.”
According to recent research, more than half of the patients who undergo a coronary angiogram have no blockages that impede blood flow and need no further intervention, such as a stent placement. This new technology spares them the need for any invasive procedure and the risks and cost involved with it.
“The idea is to decrease the number of unnecessary normal invasive coronary angiograms and focus on providing an invasive approach for those that really need it,” Dr Slipczuk says.
The HeartFlow Analysis helps physicians identify CAD and has demonstrated a reduction in invasive and ultimately unnecessary tests, which can be associated with bleeding, stroke, major blood vessel damage and other serious complications. Conversely, the use of HeartFlow makes the catheterization process more efficient, since more of the patients who need it also wind up needing further intervention, such as stent placement, which is also done during catheterization.
“This advanced technology reflects Einstein’s mission to employ leading procedures that enhance patient safety and advance diagnostic accuracy,” Dr. Slipczuk says. “This the result of a thriving collaboration between Einstein’s radiology and cardiology departments in pursuit of optimal methods to diagnose and treat many aspects of the nation’s No. 1 killer, heart disease.”