Scan cuts heart attack rates

29 August 2018        

Category: Research

A heart scan for patients who attend hospital with chest pain could save thousands of lives.

Cardiac rehab nurse

Patients who received the scan, called computed tomography angiogram or CTA, when they arrived in hospital received more lifesaving drugs and procedures than those who didn’t and as a result had 40% fewer heart attacks over the next five years.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh say current medical guidelines should be updated to incorporate the scans into routine care.

The SCOT-HEART study tracked more than 4,000 patients who were referred to hospital with symptoms of angina - when the arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood and oxygen become narrowed, and the blood supply to your heart muscle is restricted.

Half of the patients were given a scan called a computed tomography angiogram, or CTA, in addition to standard diagnostic tests.

40 per cent drop in heart attacks

After receiving the scan, the number of patients suffering a heart attack within five years dropped by 40 per cent, the study found.

The number of patients undergoing additional procedures increased within the first year but had levelled out by the end of the five-year period. This suggests that including the scans in routine care would not lead to a surge in costly tests or additional heart surgery, the researchers say.

Patients who are at risk of a heart attack are frequently diagnosed with a test called an angiogram. This involves inserting tubes into the body and heart to check the flow of blood and identify any obstructions that could pose a heart attack risk.

CTA scans enable doctors to look at the blood vessels from the outside the body, without the need to insert tubes into the heart. The scans are cheaper, quicker and safer than angiograms.

Life-saving scans

Jeremy Pearson, our Associate Medical Director, said:

“This scan saves lives. Patients who receive CT-angiography in hospital are better off than those who don’t. They’re more likely to receive lifesaving drugs and treatments like statins in the earlier stages of disease, which leads to fewer heart attacks in the long run.

In the past we’ve been unsure whether this scan translates to a real-life patient benefit. But these results make it clear – it’s a cheap, reliable, non-invasive way to save lives and the wide-spread use of the scan should be adopted across the UK.”