12/4/02 - The Cardiolite Test

Every year six-million people go to emergency rooms with chest pains. Often they are hospitalized just because of the possibility of a heart attack, but a new test may be able to save some people from that pain and worry. A recent study finds doctors are able to rule out heart attacks faster with a new heart imaging test.
Melanie Ransom teaches gymnastics and swimming. She thinks of herself as fit, so it was especially frightening when she found herself out of breath during water aerobics. Ransom says, "You do feel worried and all sorts of practical and also silly things cross your mind, such as, I'm the lifeguard, who's gonna pick me off the bottom of the pool if I'm the one who goes down."
Ransom went to the hospital where she had the standard cardiac exam plus a heart imaging test called cardiolite. Dr. James Feldman with Boston University Medical Center says, "You can take a picture with a camera of the blood flow through the heart and in the heart muscle. So you can see areas that are not getting adequate blood flow or have blockage."
The study, an emergency room assessment called the "erase chest pain trial" found more than a quarter of a million Americans could be spared the anxiety and costs of more invasive tests and hospital stays.
Dr. James Udelson with Tufts-New England Medical Center says, "The benefits of the patient is potentially getting to a much faster diagnosis, heart attack or no heart attack much earlier in the process than the physician might get to without using this test."
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at more than 2,400 patients with heart attack symptoms. Among those who received the cardiolite test, unnecessary hospitalizations were reduced by 20% and the test worked well on a cross section of patients in different types of hospitals.
Dr. Harry Selker with Tufts-New England Medical Center says, "With the use of this test we'd admit fewer patients that don't need to be admitted. We save money and also for the patients of course it's a much better day for them they get to stay home. For patients like Melanie Ransom, the test can bring a speedier diagnosis and peace of mind.

Cardiolite tests are offered at different hospitals across the Heartland. They're very common, some hospitals even do the tests on a daily basis. And, the cardiolite test is covered by most insurances.