CT scanning to check people's hearts for a build-up of plaque has been popular for more than a decade. But a new study casts doubt on the value of such screening in people who are at low risk for heart disease.
Widespread screening for heart disease using computed tomographic angiography -- or CT angiography -- is often touted as a way for people to make sure they're not going to suddenly drop dead from a heart attack. But controversy has surrounded use of the technology for people who don't have any significant risk factors for heart disease. In the new study, researchers at Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease in Baltimore, studied the value of CT angiography in 2,000 people in a health screening program in Seoul. One thousand people had CT angiography and 1,000 others did not. None of the participants had any heart disease symptoms.
Among the people screened, 21% tested positive for heart disease. Those patients were more likely than the unscreened patients to receive prescription medication as a result of the positive test, undergo further testing, and have revascularization surgery to clear blocked coronary arteries. But, 18 months after the screening, there was no difference in cardiac events between people in the screened and unscreened groups. One cardiovascular event occurred in each group (one case of angina and one cardiac death).