Predicting heart attack in 10 seconds

Seven's On Call
April 3, 2008 12:48:23 PM PDT
Those vague symptoms you're feeling could be an S.O.S. from your heart. Now, there is a quick, painless way to check it out. A blockage in your heart is a ticking time bomb for a heart attack. Half-a-million Americans will have one this year and will miss warning signs before the attack happens.

Sevens On Call with a 10-second test that, at the first sign of trouble, could save your life.

Shopping is not exactly a tough workout, but not long ago, one hour in a mall felt like a marathon to 56-year-old Darlene Nadian.

"Very weak, very tired all the time," she said.

Nausea, dizziness and arm pain convinced Darlene and her sister, Dawn, that it was her heart. Doctors didn't agree.

"They said I was perfectly fine," she said. "They ran EKG's on me. They told me it was indigestion."

After growing weaker and weaker, Darlene ended up in the emergency room and, finally, in the machine that saved her life.

The CT Coronary Angiogram takes thousands of X-ray pictures of cross-sections of the heart in five to 10 seconds. A computer turns them into a detailed 4-D image, capturing the heart from every angle.

"Images the area of the heart fast enough that we can get stop-action images of the coronary arteries," Dr. Daniel Berman said.

Dr. Berman immediately spotted a 90 percent blockage. Darlene was rushed to surgery and two stents were placed in her right artery.

"It's the obstructed arteries that are the most dangerous ones," Dr. Berman said. "They're the ones that cause symptoms."

Finding them has never been easier. Patients no longer need a catheter threaded through the groin and up into the coronary arteries. And now, doctors here have cut radiation exposure 75 percent.

No more fatty foods or cigarettes for Darlene. With a family history of heart disease, she's no longer taking chances.

The CT Coronary Angiogram is available nationwide. The cost of the test is about $1,500, but it is worth it.