April 13, 2024
Time and Money Saver

Photo: HeartFlow

HeartFlow technology allows doctors to create a 3-D model of a patient's heart showing blockages.

Economic Backbone: Cardiac Care

Time and Money Saver

New CT scan technology helps avoid unnecessary heart catheterizations.

Amy Keller | 2/28/2023

Over the past couple of decades, cardiac CT scans have become a workhorse for evaluating people with chest pain. The scans can rule out significant coronary artery disease with more than 99% accuracy. By leveraging a new add-on technology, CT imaging can also provide a non-invasive method of evaluating patients with a moderate risk of heart disease, helping doctors differentiate between patients who need stents or surgery and those patients who can be managed with medications.

Created by Stanford University professors, the HeartFlow technology uses computational fluid dynamics to derive information from CT images that doctors would normally only be able to ascertain in the cath lab. Doctors simply upload the images from the patient’s cardiac CT scan to HeartFlow’s cloud-based system. Those images are run through an analysis that uses computer algorithms to simulate blood flow through the vessels. Within hours, the physician receives a 3-D model of the patient’s heart showing the functional impact of any blockages. From there, a doctor can create a treatment plan.

Gregory Hartlage, a cardiologist and cardiac imaging specialist at Southern Medical Group/Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, which implemented the technology last year, says the scanning add-on cuts down on the number of patients undergoing unnecessary angiograms. “The other benefit is that you’re only sending people to the heart cath lab that you know need to have something done,” he says.

Results from studies evaluating 10,000 patients who’ve had the test demonstrated an 86% reduction in unnecessary angiograms as well as a 26% reduction in the cost of care.

“Instead of sending a bunch of people over to the heart cath lab to spend half a day there and then go home without having anything done, you can actually send people you know are going to be very likely to need a stent and/or to need bypass surgery,” Hartlage says. “The interventional cardiologist, their goal is to find problems that need to be fixed. That’s what you want — if you’re going to be having a bunch of cases, to be making an impact. When we think about outcomes in terms of resource utilization, in terms of doing things that help prevent heart attacks or prevent heart failure or prevent people from dying, this is a more valuable and efficient utilization of resources.”

Tags: Healthcare, Feature

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