If you develop a heart disease symptom such as chronic chest pain, your doctor may want to get a look inside. That’s what a coronary CT angiogram provides. In fact, it creates a pretty impressive 3D image of your heart.
But if you don’t have any clear symptoms of artery problems or heart disease, is it reasonable to use a CT scan as a precaution?
A US report from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore doesn’t think so.
Could CT scans do more harm than good?
According to Jenny Thompson of the Health Sciences Institute, Hopkins researchers reviewed 18 months of medical records for 2,000 subjects. Half of the group received a CT scan, while the other half received a standard check-up.
A year and a half later, there was one clear difference between the two groups...
Subjects in the CT scan group were given more heart procedures, more follow-up tests and more medications (primarily statins and aspirin) than subjects who didn't get scanned.
And what was the benefit of all that extra treatment?
Rates of heart attacks, heart disease deaths and other cardiac events were the same in both groups.
According to lead researcher, Dr John W. McEvoy, CT testing in patients with low or intermediate risk of atherosclerosis doesn’t appear to be useful, especially when excessive radiation exposure, unnecessary follow-up procedures and drugs with unhealthy side effects become part of the package.”
“If your heart disease risk is slight and your doctor recommends a CT scan, it’s time to get a second opinion, before you get even a first CT scan,” cautions Thompson.