Computerized tomography (CT) coronary angiography is proving useful for the difficult problem of determining whether a patient with chest pain is at risk for a heart attack.
Previously, such people may have been kept at a hospital overnight, or longer, for observation. Others may have been released, only to suffer a heart attack shortly thereafter.
But as a Scottish study shows the coronary CT angiogram is proving to be a lifesaver in such circumstances.
The SCOT-HEART study, led by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, tracked 4,000 patients who were referred with angina, the condition that causes chest pain due to the restricted blood supply to the heart.
Angina occurs only in cases of coronary artery disease.
Half the patients in the study underwent a coronary CT angiogram in addition to standard diagnostic tests.
The researchers found that around a quarter of patients had their diagnoses reclassified after receiving the scan, in many cases prompting new treatments.
They also found one-third fewer patients who got the coronary CT angiogram experienced a heart attack in the following 20 months.