Early Screening for Heart Disease
TRINITY, Fla., (June 2, 2009)—Heart disease is the number one killer and the leading cause of disability in American women. A new device being used by a Morton Plant Mease physician helps detect signs of future heart disease long before any symptoms are present or revealed on traditional heart screenings.
A Carotid Intima-Media Thickness, or CIMT, is an ultrasound machine that detects very small traces of plaque in the arteries. “The fact that over two-thirds of cardiovascular events occur in individuals who are low-risk underscores the importance of screening asymptomatic people for this disease, much like we do for cancer,” says Eric Crall, M.D.
The noninvasive test is performed by placing a small device against the patient’s neck and an image is taken of carotid (neck) artery walls. The image measures the thickness of the walls and can detect small traces of plaque prior to any blockage in the artery. The screening also generates a vascular age of the patient and is compared to the person’s chronological age. The screening lasts approximately 5 minutes and is painless. If small traces of plaque in the artery are present, the physician and patient can begin preventative measures for future heart disease. Traditional testing for heart disease involves an exercise stress test, but that test only indicates blockage after the artery is 40% to 50% blocked.
CIMT is recommended by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. Several recent studies have concluded that the need for early diagnosis is great, including the WISE study from Cedar-Sinai Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Medical Institution. According to the American Heart Association, 64% of women who die suddenly of heart disease had no previous symptoms. “The greatest benefit of this screening is that presumably healthy, asymptomatic people are given an extremely early warning sign that they may be a candidate for heart disease. No other screening does that without significant radiation exposure. And early detection is the first step in prevention,” says Dr. Crall.
Dr. Crall recommends that everyone, regardless of risk level or lack of symptoms, should consider CIMT screening. He suggests screenings begin at age 40 or 10 years prior to the youngest family member having been diagnosed with heart disease.
Nationally recognized for health care excellence, Morton Plant Mease Health Care is dedicated to providing community owned health care services that set the standard for high-quality, compassionate care. Morton Plant Mease Health Care is comprised of the following hospitals – Morton Plant, Clearwater; Mease Dunedin, Dunedin; Mease Countryside, Safety Harbor and Morton Plant North Bay, New Port Richey.