A recent study by the NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York City found that surgeons can estimate patients' risk of heart attack or death by reviewing existing chest images taken months earlier during lung screenings. This approach can help physicians make practical decisions about surgical risks and avoid surgery delays, increased costs, and radiation exposure.
The study analyzed existing computed tomography (CT) scans to estimate levels of hardened fatty plaque deposits in the heart's three largest blood vessels. The researchers found that patients with greater plaque buildup had higher odds of developing serious health issues after surgery. The data used in the study came from the health records of 2,650 patients aged 45 and older who had undergone surgery unrelated to the heart.
The Procedure!.. All patients had undergone a general CT scan of their chests no more than a year before their surgeries. The study used a scoring system with a 3-point scale for plaque buildup in each of the three major coronary arteries. These scores would be added together to range from 0 to 9, and patients with higher scores had a higher risk of major adverse cardiac events (MACE). Patients with scores from 0 to 2 had a 4% or lower risk of MACE, while those with scores from 3 to 5 had an 8% risk. Patients with scores from 6 to 9 had a 13% risk.
The Coronary Calcium Assessment used in the study is easy to use and requires minimal training, making it a cost-effective tool that can be implemented in any medical practice. The calcium estimates were consistent among the physicians, suggesting the rating system was reliable. However, the study's authors note that while evaluating cardiac risks before surgery is helpful, it will be important to find new strategies to prevent adverse events after the procedure and improve survival.
The Study's Findings were presented at the American College of Cardiology meeting and are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal. The researchers believe this approach can help physicians make practical decisions about surgical risks, even though such tests may not be as precise as those designed for this purpose.
Using existing images can save time and money and reduce radiation exposure for patients. This new approach could lead to significant improvements in surgical outcomes and may even save lives.