A new study has demonstrated that a simple ‘coronary artery calcification’ scan or CAC can help doctors diagnose heart patients at risk of early death. The procedure is just a simple X-ray test which pinpoints specks of calcium in the walls of the coronary arteries – small diameter arteries which supply blood to the heart itself. Two major coronary arteries branch off from the aorta near the point where the aorta and the left ventricle meet.These relatively narrow vessels are commonly affected by atherosclerosis (a condition characterized by narrowing of arteries) and can become blocked, causing angina or a heart attack.
Professor Leslee Shaw, of Emory University School of Medicine collected and assessed CAC scores and data about risk factors for early death from 9,715 people between the years 1996 and 1999.
The patients, who were scanned as part a community-outreach screening programme at an outpatient clinic in Nashville, showed no symptoms of coronary artery disease at the time of the scans.
The study included the following people: 86% were white, 8% were African American, 4% Hispanic, and 2% Asian. Scientists found that the score accurately predicted who would die from an early death, from all causes, within 15 years. Furthermore, researchers said those people found at risk of an early death showed no symptoms at the time of their scans, 15 years earlier.
The authors suggest that CAC scanning could help identify patients at risk for early death.
‘These findings give us a better understanding of the importance of coronary calcium scans to predict mortality,’ said Professor Shaw.
‘Patients with high calcium scores might be advised by their physicians to adopt healthier lifestyles, which could lead to better outcomes and potentially help lengthen their lives.’
Professor Shaw says CAC scores have been used to estimate patient’s prognosis for heart disease and early death from all causes in the short term, but this study’s long-term analysis is unique.
Coronary artery disease, is also known as coronary heart disease or simply heart disease.
An estimated 7.4 million people, according to the WHO have died of the Heart Disease in 2012. Heart disease occurs mostly when coronary arteries become clogged with plaques, fatty substances that cause the arteries to harden.