Cardiovascular Services

Overview

Our physicians are experts in the noninvasive imaging evaluation of patients chest pain, heart attack, aneurysms, congenital heart disease, hypertension and claudication (peripheral artery disease). We also offer cardiovascular risk assessments with CT calcium score and carotid intimal thickness (IMT) evaluations at multiple locations throughout the region as part of our one stop screening program. We use all the most advanced technologies to evaluate heart disease, including coronary CT angiography (CTA), cardiac MRI, nuclear cardiology, and PET/CT.

Cardiac Imaging

More than 1.2 million Americans will have a first or repeat heart attack this year and about 450,000 of them will die. Coronary artery disease, the country's single leading cause of death, normally occurs in middle-age or older adults, but recently younger people are having more diagnosed heart disease and heart attacks. While many factors contribute to heart disease – hereditary risks, age and sex, lifestyle issues play a major role in the onset of disease. High blood pressure, tobacco use, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity, overweight and obesity and diabetes are risk factors for heart disease.

If a patient is at higher risk, there are many imaging tests that can help diagnose the problem at an early stage so that treatment can begin. Mecklenburg Radiology Associates employs specialty trained radiologists who can interpret these tests, using the most advanced state-of-the-art equipment – CT, MRI and ultrasound - at our hospital partners inpatient and outpatient locations.

CT Cardiac Calcium Scoring

"Calcium scoring is the single best test you can have to predict your cardiovascular risk. All the other risk factors – cholesterol, smoking, hypertension, diabetes and all are much less predictive than the calcium score. Cardiovascular disease kills more people than any other disease. Getting a calcium score done may be the most important thing you can do to determine how you can live a longer and healthier life."
- Erik Insko, MD, Radiologist, Mecklenburg Radiology Associates

Noted as the single best predictor of heart disease by the American Heart Association, a cardiac CT scan is a non-invasive exam that shows the location and amount of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries. This build-up that is comprised of fat, calcium and other substances can eventually result in the narrowing or closing of the arteries. That can lead to angina or a heart attack. Since calcium is a strong indicator of coronary artery disease, the amount of calcium seen in a CT scan can help physicians determine if a patient needs a medical, surgical or lifestyle intervention. The test is recommended by the American Heart Association for men older than age 45 and women older than 55 who are at intermediate risk for future heart attack, meaning that they have one or more major risk factor for coronary heart disease: high blood pressure, high LDL (bad) cholesterol, low HDL (good) cholesterol, strong family history of heart attack, smokers and ex-smokers and diabetics.

Coronary CT Angiography (CTA)

"Cardiac CT is more accurate, cheaper, faster and has less radiation than a nuclear stress test. In the future, this will become the test of preference to evaluate not only those with chest pain, but also those without chest pain, but simply at risk for heart disease."
- Erik Insko, MD, Radiologist, Mecklenburg Radiology Associates

A coronary CTA is a heart-imaging test that can show if fatty deposits or calcium is built up in the coronary arteries and determine if an intervention, such as angioplasty or bypass surgery, is needed. Excess plaque or increased calcium can result in heart disease or a heart attack. The test is especially helpful in patients who are considered at intermediate to high-risk of heart disease, but are asymptomatic; those with chest pain, but are not considered at risk; and for those who have had an inconclusive stress test.

The procedure uses three-dimensional CT technology. After a patient is given an injectable contrast solution, a series of x-ray images are taken with a multi-slice CT scanner, which produces clear images of the heart and any plaque or calcium build-up in the arteries.

While cardiac catheterization is still considered the "gold standard" for heart testing in patients presenting with heart attack symptoms, CTA is being more widely used to rule out potential problems in patients presenting with non-life threatening symptoms. Often lifestyle changes or medications can help reverse heart disease, without putting the patient through riskier, invasive procedure.

Cardiac MRI

MR angiography, or cardiac MRI uses a magnetic resonance imaging technology to see blood vessels inside the body. The test is typically used to evaluate the blood vessels leading to the brain, kidneys and legs. In many cases, the exam can provide diagnostic information that cannot be done by using other modalities. MRA can track problems in the blood vessels that may block blood flow. With MRA, blood flow and the blood vessel walls can be seen on screen. The exam is helpful in detecting an aneurysm and narrowing or stenosis of blood vessels lead to the lungs, kidneys or legs.

 


February 2013

CT Calcium Scoring

Dr. Erik Insko explains how a CT calcium score might save your life.

January 2013

New Open MRI Scanner at Novant Health Charlotte Orthopaedic Hospital

Dr. Kevin Carroll explains how the new High-Field True Open Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine works.

More than 30 Highly Trained Radiologists and 10 Physician Assistants on Staff