Heart CT Scans Often Pick Up Trouble Elsewhere

Ignoring those findings could be fatal, researchers warn

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THURSDAY, May 19, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- While undergoing heart scans, many people have abnormalities show up outside the coronary arteries -- some of which could be potentially fatal, researchers report.

The findings illustrate the need for trained radiologists to interpret heart computed tomography (CT) scans, the study authors said.

"The early pickup of unexpected and potentially life-threatening findings such as early-stage lung cancer or an aneurysm can have a significant impact on early disease management and has the potential of improving patient prognosis," lead researcher Dr. Smita Patel, assistant professor in radiology at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, Ann Arbor, said in a prepared statement.

Patel's team reviewed heart CT scans from 98 patients and discovered noncoronary findings in 60 of the patients. In 43 of those patients, noncoronary findings were either significant or potentially significant. Those findings included lung disease and lung cancer, aneurysms, emphysema, liver lesions, pulmonary embolism (clots) and pancreatic masses.

The study was presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Roentgen Ray Society in New Orleans.

Patel and her colleagues stressed that these noncoronary findings were unsuspected and occurred in areas of the body not targeted for the scan. That's why it's important for radiologists -- who are trained in all aspects of diagnostic radiology -- to read the scans.

"Physicians in other disciplines do not undergo the rigorous training and testing in diagnostic radiology that radiologists do, and could therefore miss abnormalities altogether or misinterpret abnormalities that they do find," Patel said.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about CT heart scans.

SOURCE: American Roentgen Ray Society, news release, May 16, 2005

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