CT scans could detect heart disease

Washington: Researchers may be better able to identify people at high risk for cardiovascular disease using CT, a new study at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands has shown.

"The results of this study show that radiologists can predict cardiovascular disease fairly well using incidental findings of calcifications of the aortic wall on CT, along with minimal patient information, such as age, gender and the reason for the CT," said Martijn JA Gondrie.

Over the past 10 years CT image quality has dramatically improved, leading to many more incidental findings. Incidental findings are unexpectedly detected imaging characteristics that are unrelated to the original clinical indication for the CT.

"Incidental findings are obtained without additional radiation exposure or cost to the patient and may hold valuable clues as to the patient`s overall health and their risk for future disease," Gondrie said.

Gondrie and colleagues developed prediction models incorporating incidental aortic findings detected on chest CT. Scores were assigned for incidental aortic abnormalities found on CT, including calcifications, plaques, elongation and other irregularities.

While each aortic abnormality was highly predictive, the prediction model incorporating the sum score for aortic calcifications was most indicative of future cardiovascular events.

“The study could potentially change the way radiologists contribute to the efficiency of daily patient care,” Gondrie concluded.

The study appears online and in the November issue of Radiology.