According to the British Heart Foundation, 115,000 cases of heart and circulatory disease could be prevented over the next decade if early detection of precursors to heart disease, like atherosclerosis and high blood pressure, were detected and treated early. The best method of assessing the heart for these conditions is CT. In this post we will explore everything you need to know about heart scans and where to get a heart CT scan in London.
What is a CT scanner?
A CT scan, also known as a Computerised Tomography scan or CAT scan, is a computerised X-ray imaging procedure in which a narrow beam of X-rays are focussed at the body and quickly rotated around it. The resulting X-ray measurements are then processed by advanced computer software that renders cross sectional images (or “slices”) of specific areas of the body in amazing detail and resolution to see deep inside without the need for an invasive procedure.
CT has unique advantages over other imaging techniques. Whilst an MRI scanner is best for imaging the brain, spinal cord and prostate gland for example, CT is far superior for scanning atherosclerosis inside arteries to determine the presence of coronary heart disease (CHD). This scanner is also fantastic for imaging the colon and lungs being able to detect tumours as small as 1-2 mm in the latter and is the only means of performing a non-invasive virtual colonoscopy. This is why we recommend a heart CT scan in London.
At Echelon Health, we use an advanced CT scanner known as the Aquilion ONE CT. With a spatial resolution of 0.3mm, it is able to visualise the very earliest signs of CHD.
Who should get a heart CT scan?
At Echelon Health, we provide preventative Health Assessments to generally healthy men over 35 and women over 40. Included in all our assessments is a CT Heart scan and a Coronary Angiogram along with an ECG, over 40 blood tests and various other scans. This is because coronary heart disease is the leading cause of premature death in the Western World, with somebody in the UK having a heat attack every 3 minutes.
Unfortunately, many people walk around with coronary heart disease without knowing it. CHD is defined by having atherosclerosis and often narrowed coronary arteries. Coronary arteries supply the heart muscle itself so if one of these becomes blocked, the heart muscle will begin to cramp and die, causing a myocardial infarction, or heart attack.
Having heart CT scan in London
Based on Harley Street, London, Echelon Health is a world-leading provider of preventative Health Assessments. We offer several packages and naturally the Healthy Heart package is a very comprehensive and in-depth assessment of your heart. It includes a CT heart, CT coronary angiogram, ECG, Ultrasound of the neck arteries and blood tests for over 40 parameters. Let’s take a look in further detail:
Every client will complete a pre-consultation and Medical Questionnaire before their assessment. This enables every assessment to be tailored to the individual’s needs. Following this, an ECG and blood tests for over 40 parameters will be performed, including tests for HDL, ‘good’ cholesterol, and LDL, ‘bad’ cholesterol which influence heart health.
The heart scan is divided into two main elements. First a CT heart scan (calcium score) examines the overall heart arteries for calcium deposition. As calcium is only deposited as part of atherosclerosis, numerous medical studies have shown the calcium score to be a very accurate assessment of the overall risk of a future heart attack.
Next, the CT coronary angiogram involves injection of dye into a vein in the arm which then allows visualisation of the inside of your heart arteries. This determines the exact location and severity of any atheroma (fatty deposits in the arteries); people with stenosis (narrowing) of one or more of the heart arteries have a very high chance of sooner or later having a heart attack, but we can recommend treatment to prevent this.
Once your assessment is complete, you will have a consultation with one of our senior physicians. If anything worrisome is detected, you will benefit from our ‘little black book’ of leading consultants who we are happy to refer you to if need be, or alternatively we can refer you to the NHS. If nothing worrisome is detected, you will benefit from in-depth expert advice tailored to your health and lifestyle.
Is A Heart CT Scan Safe?
Theoretically there are very small risks associated with radiation from CT, however consider the following comparison. The radiation dose from our CT coronary angiogram is the equivalent to spending just a few weeks in Cornwall, where the background radiation is naturally higher than most of the UK. However, there is no recorded increased incidence of cancer amongst the population here. Moreover, we operate an Aquilion ONE CT scanner which has the lowest radiation exposure of any CT scanner currently available, whilst having a superior spatial resolution of 0.3mm; fantastic for detecting abnormalities in blood vessels or small tumours.
Nevertheless, we take our clients’ medical history into account and will not perform tests or scans that pose a threat to your health. CT has many benefits and is the best modality for imaging the heart arteries, so in the vast majority of cases the benefits outweigh any risks.
Risk Factors That Contribute To Heart Disease
- Smoking – nicotine causes heart rate and blood pressure to increase, putting strain on vessel walls, weakening them. It also encourages blood clots, atherosclerosis and generally heart disease. Therefore, there are many benefits to quitting smoking.
- Obesity – excess fat may build up on the heart muscle itself, this is known as epicardial adipose tissue (EAT). Fat will also contribute to atherosclerosis as well as trigger inflammation, increase blood pressure and blood glucose, which are harmful to artery walls.
- High cholesterol levels – too much circulating cholesterol also contributes to atherosclerosis, particularly too much LDL cholesterol
- Diabetes – elevated blood glucose (hyperglycaemia) and insulin-resistance can damage blood vessel walls, triggering stiffening and atherosclerosis. Adults with diabetes are therefore 2 to 4 times more likely to develop heart disease or stroke.
- Alcohol – drinking elevates blood pressure which is a risk factor for a heart attack or stroke. Additionally, weight gain and chronic inflammation from excessive drinking can lead to heart disease. Visit drinkaware for more information on the connection between alcohol and heart disease.
- Air pollution – harmful gases such as nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and particulate matter can contribute to heart disease in various ways. From damaging blood vessel walls to making blood more likely to clot and even causing abnormal heart rhythms.
- Genetics – inherited conditions may contribute to your risk, such as familial hypercholesterolaemia, which affects 1 in 250 people in the UK. Although these specific conditions may be rare, there are many nuanced genetic predispositions to heart disease you may inherit.
- Ethnic grouping – in the UK, people with a south Asian or African background have a statistically higher risk of developing heart disease
For the most in-depth heart CT scan in London, consider Echelon Health’s Healthy Heart Assessment. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a full body MOT, check out our Evergreen and Premium Health Assessments, which both detect for over 92% of those diseases that lead to premature death, including heart and circulatory diseases.
For more information about our packages, don’t hesitate to contact us today on +44 (0)20 7580 7688 to speak to our friendly representatives or alternatively, click the button below and let us know when it is most convenient to contact you.Make an Enquiry