Mon, Feb 09, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Imager may curb heart attacks

EARLY INTERVENTION:Physicians said that younger people are developing arterial inflammation that can lead to heart attacks because of dramatic lifestyle changes

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Heart attacks sometimes occur without any warning signs, but early detection of cholesterol buildup inside arteries could help to prevent such potentially fatal incidents, the Taipei Medical University Hospital said.

The hospital made the remarks at a recent event in Taipei marking the introduction of its first dual-source computed tomography (DSCT) machine, which it said is characterized by improved image quality and lower radiation exposure compared with the more traditional 64-slice multidetector computed tomography (MDCT) scanner.

“The initial presentation of about 62 percent of male patients with coronary artery diseases is either myocardial infarction or death, while the percentage is approximately 46 percent among their female counterparts,” the hospital’s Department of Cardiology attending physician Huang Chun-yao (黃群耀) said.

While the majority of such people did not exhibit any alarming symptoms before they had a heart attack, most of their arteries could have experienced increased accumulation of cholesterol in the vessel walls a decade ago that gradually developed into coronary atherosclerosis, Huang said.

Coronary atherosclerosis is a condition caused by inflammation of artery walls and arterial blockage, Huang said, with risk factors including smoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, a high cholesterol level and metabolic syndrome.

“It is worth noting that the condition has traditionally been most prevalent among people aged 50 and older, but recently we have seen people who are in their 30s with the condition because of dramatic diet and lifestyle changes in the nation in recent years,” Huang said.

“There have also been cases where people did not have any of the above risk factors, the indirect causes of which could have been a lack of exercise and excessive consumption of food additives,” he added.

Huang said a DSCT machine can not only provide a thorough evaluation of arteries, including a clear view of the extent of narrowing and hardening in an artery — which allows doctors to discover the condition and administer treatments at an early stage — but can also detect coronary in-stent restenosis (re-narrowing).

Taipei Medical University Hospital’s Department of Medical Imaging chief Lan Gong-yau (藍功堯) said the DSCT scanner is also conducive to the early detection of lung cancer, which kills more than 7,000 Taiwanese annually.

“The detection rate of lung cancer using a chest X-ray is merely 0.7 percent, of which just about 17 percent of patients are still at stage one. However, the DSCT machine can detect pulmonary nodules smaller than 2mm and exposes the patient to only about 0.5 millisieverts of radiation,” Lan said.

Lan said individuals at high risk for lung cancer, such as smokers, kitchen workers and those with a family history of cancer, should undergo a scan.

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