Heart disease looms larger as we get older and while doctors have a host of methods to find problems, they have some shortcomings.
Now, new technology is making a prime tool at one hospital even better, saving lives, but also preventing unnecessary procedures.
Rich Cohen knew high cholesterol made him a heart disease target, but so did family history.
"My father had a heart attack at 48, 49. Only my grandfather and his brother lived past 60 - they all had massive heart attacks at 60," he said.
Weeks before his 50th birthday, this 3rd generation insurance adjuster went for a cardiac assessment. After preliminary tests showed potential trouble, Cohen had a CT scan with a sobering result.
"Turned out I had a blockage in my main artery, and it was pretty significant," he said.
Dr. Thomas Phiambolis of the Lankenau Heart Institute wanted to know more, so he sent the CT scan for a HeartFlow analysis. HeartFlow measures blood flow, using the science of computational fluid dynamics.
"This helps us analyze the 3 coronary arteries. It's able to discern the blood flow through the coronary artery, and determine whether a particular stenosis or blockage is indeed blocking blood flow," said Dr. Phiambolis.
Cohen's HeartFlow results showed the blockage was so dangerous, he needed heart bypass surgery.
But Dr. Phiambolis says HeartFlow's big use is in actually helping patients avoid unnecessary heart catheterizations by showing that their problems are less serious ones which can be treated with medication.
"Those who do have problems on CT or HeartFlow do go to the cath lab, but they are the right patients in the cath lab," said Dr. Phiambolis.
Cohen couldn't tolerate the side effects from conventional statin cholesterol drugs, but he's on a new generation of medication that's cut the dangerous LDL cholesterol in half.
"I'm better than I was, much better than I was," he said.
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