Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

High-Tech Scans Spot Heart Blockages

Sophisticated CT Scans May Help Avoid Unnecessary Procedures
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 5, 2007 (Orlando, Fla.) -- High-tech heart scans may help some people to avoid invasive, and sometimes unnecessary, procedures to check for blockages in the coronary arteries, researchers say.

In a new study, the sophisticated 64-slice computed tomography coronary angiography scan proved nearly as accurate as standard cardiac catheterization at spotting blocked coronary arteries.

The scans won't replace cardiac catheterization, also known as coronary angiography, but they can help doctors rule out people who can skip the more invasive procedure, says researcher Julie Miller, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Studies suggest that as many as one in four of the 1.3 million cardiac catheterization procedures performed each year in the U.S. may be unnecessary, she says.

CT Heart Scans Quick, Noninvasive

Early detection of blockages is critical to preempting a heart attack, allowing time for drug therapy, angioplasty, or heart bypass surgery to be used to keep arteries open.

Cardiac catheterization is the gold standard for evaluating blood vessel obstructions. In the procedure, contrast material -- a substance that makes it easier to see in an X-ray -- is injected through the catheter. Then an X-ray is taken of the area to look for blockages.

While it sounds like a mouthful, the 64-slice computed tomography coronary angiography scan is rapidly joining the health lexicon. It's a type of CT scan that gives doctors a detailed look at the coronary arteries, which supply blood to heart muscle.

The technique is quick, producing pictures within five to 10 seconds, compared with 30 to 45 minutes for catheterization, Miller says. It's noninvasive, with potentially less risk and discomfort than catheterization, which often requires sedatives and sometimes a night in the hospital.

The potential complications of catheterization, while extremely rare, include infection, heart attack, and stroke, Miller says.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure