New technology diagnoses health problems before symptoms appear

Beverly Hills 05 July 2005Introducing a new direction in the field of cardiovascular medicine, Westside Medical Imaging (WMI) in Beverly Hills, California, now offers technology so precise that coronary problems can often be confidently diagnosed without a hospital visit for a conventional angiography. Cancers or other potential health problems can also be identified before they show up on standard tests.

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"Nationally, about 50 percent of heart attack victims have no warning symptoms", stated Norman Lepor, M.D., one of the cardiologists at WMI. "With the 64-slice CT scanner, we can detect signs of potential cardiovascular problems in just a few seconds." The 64-slice CT allows for the precise identification of both calcified and non-calcified plaques and allow for the early initiation of treatments to prevent heart attacks and sudden cardiac death.

"Because the technology takes such a clear image of the fast-moving heart muscle and arteries, we can now identify potentially life threatening coronary artery disease at its earliest stage, without discomfort to the patient because the procedure is non-invasive", noted Hooman Madyoon, M.D., also a WMI cardiologist.

Patients may have the new type of scan to find out the cause of unusual symptoms, to check out risk factors due to heredity, or to reassure themselves that they really are healthy. Many of the first patients have been physicians, checking on their own health status. About 2/3 of the scans reveal a condition that requires treatment, from a change in diet, a prescription medication, or need for an intervention such as angiogplasty or heart surgery. Some patients have been relieved to have found they are not afflicted with heart disease despite the risk factors they have, such as hypertension, diabetes, smoking, elevated cholesterol, a family history or symptoms that may be suggestive of a blockage.

With three cardiologists and a radiologist on-site overseeing the facility, Westside Medical Imaging is the only outpatient cardiovascular-directed unit in the country to offer scans with the 64-slice scanner. In addition, the facility has been named as a "centre of excellence" and selected to educate other physicians on the benefits of non-invasive CT-coronary angiography.

What separates Westside Medical Imaging from many of the leading hospitals which usually offer this cutting edge technology is its empathetic and comfortable environment. The facility offers its patients the technological advances of the Siemens SOMATOM Sensation Cardiac 64, which is used in 11 of the top 15 hospitals in America, but spares them from the hospital-like setting. Patients at the centre may receive all necessary cardiovascular tests in one day, instead of spending days or weeks going for tests at multiple sites.

At WMI, coronary scans are read by two leading cardiology experts who can quickly make a diagnosis based on the results, and recommend a comprehensive treatment plan. In essence, the doctors are often able to determine a patient's complete cardiovascular health status within hours.

With the 64-slice CT scanner, the cardiologists at Westside Medical Imaging can now offer a number of new services including:

  • Full-Body Scans which help to identify diseases such as cancer and atherosclerosis at their earliest stages.
  • Combined Computed Tomography Angiography Studies which provide a comprehensive evaluation of a patient's atherosclerotic condition including arteries to the brain, heart and lower extremities.
  • Virtual Colonography which can detect about 90 percent of cancer-causing polyps, does not require anaesthesia, and avoids the possible complication of penetrating the colon that can occur with other procedures.
  • Lung Screening, the most effective screening method for lung cancer which can detect most cancers at its earliest stage (Stage 1), and which carries the highest successful treatment rate of 75 percent or better.

Although screening examinations are not usually covered by insurance plans, most insurance plans will cover the cost of the procedure if performed as a diagnostic test for patients with specific symptoms. Diagnosis by the 64-slice scanner is considerably less expensive than the traditional angiogram, does not require the inconvenience of a hospitalization, and is safer as well.

Both Dr. Lepor and Dr. Madyoon are nationally known for their professional accomplishments in cardiovascular medicine, in research, and in teaching. Both are attending cardiologists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and partners at the Westside Medical Associates of Los Angeles. Dr. Madyoon is also co-director of the Pacific Heart and Vascular Center at Brotman Medical Center, Culver City. Dr. Lepor is an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and co-editor of the publication Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine.


Leslie Versweyveld

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