Ron’s Story: CT Scan Finds Early Heart Blockage

Ironically, Ron’s signs of a heart attack started with a physical. To the world, Ron was in great shape. He was a lean, avid cyclist who had been passing yearly physicals since his 40th birthday. 

This year seemed no different, but Ron's physician added a stress test since Ron's brother Mark – also in seemingly great shape – had recently died at 46 when he collapsed playing basketball. He died of extensive coronary artery disease.

Ron breezed through the physical and stress test. But later at home, he felt something wasn't right. His physician advised that he go to the emergency room, but Ron figured it was nothing to be alarmed about. The next day at work things still didn't feel right. Ron was dizzy and even felt disoriented on his way to catch the bus home. Now it felt serious. Ron immediately went to Miami Valley Hospital’s ER. With his brother's history, he was admitted for monitoring. After being thoroughly tested and with no concerning diagnostics, Ron was released.

A year-and-a-half later, the same thing happened. And again, a full battery of tests showed nothing out of the ordinary. But Ron's physician still suspected it was his heart. He directed Ron to Mukul Chandra, MD, to do a 64-slice CT scan. Dr. Chandra recommends a CT scan for younger patients where blockage may not be seen with the normal tests.

The CT scan took images of Ron's aorta and reassembled them in a computer to show a complete picture of Ron's heart in minute detail, especially vein blockage. Ron was given a beta blocker before the test to slow his heartbeat to 60 or slower for a better picture, as well as a contrast agent. Then Ron held his breath for 15 seconds to immobilize his chest, as if holding still for a picture. Unlike older CT scanners, the 64-slice CT can take a lot more pictures during one breath, giving a much more stable group of images to work with.

From the CT scan, Dr. Chandra could tell that Ron's heart was healthy, yet he spotted a small blockage in its early stages. This had not been visible in any other scan. Preventive steps were immediately taken to assure that Ron's heart would stay healthy for years to come.

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