(Dec. 3, 2008)
State officials have approved a plan by East Carolina University to buy and install a CT scanner that will allow for precise diagnosis of coronary artery disease.
The advanced computed tomography scanner will be housed at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU. The state Division of Facility Services approved ECU’s certificate of need application in late November.
The scanner will enable ECU to further its capabilities to diagnose and plan for appropriate management of cardiovascular disease in one location. The most advanced cardiovascular CT scanner in eastern North Carolina, its precise images will allow doctors to diagnose blockages in arteries without catheterization, an invasive procedure in which a tiny tube is threaded through an artery to give doctors images of blockages.
In North Carolina, cardiovascular disease is responsible for nearly a third of all deaths. The percentage of deaths attributable to cardiovascular disease in eastern North Carolina is 23 percent higher than in the rest of the state.
As new scanners with better imaging capabilities have become available, non-invasive imaging techniques such as CT angiography have substantially replaced catheterization, which carries some risk and costs several thousand dollars. Coronary CT angiography determines whether fatty or calcium deposits have built up in cardiac arteries, which supply blood to the heart muscle. In patients who have symptoms that could indicate heart disease or impending heart attack but no other significant risk factors, CT angiography rules out coronary heart disease with 99 percent accuracy. A procedure typically costs between $1,000 and $1,500.
“You would eliminate the risk and you would cut the cost” compared to catheterization, said Dr. Assad Movahed, professor of cardiovascular sciences at ECU and medical director of the coronary CT program.
ECU’s machine will be a Siemens SOMATOM Definition dual-source scanner with added features for heart diagnoses. Renovations for the unit should be completed by the end of April and the unit installed in early May. The scanner should see its first patients in mid-May.
ECU projects performing nearly 800 scans in fiscal year 2010 and increasing to more than 4,000 by fiscal year 2012.
Doctors and scientists will also use the device in research and clinical trials.