Non-invasive heart scan helping Norton doctors detect cardiovascular problems

Since 2020, Norton cardiologists have been providing FFR-CT scans, which stands for fractional flow reserve computed tomography.
Published: Oct. 23, 2022 at 7:55 PM CDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A new, non-invasive heart scan has helped cardiologists at Norton Healthcare detect and address cardiovascular problems in patients more quickly.

Since 2020, Norton cardiologists have been providing FFR-CT scan, which stands for fractional flow reserve computed tomography.

The FFR-CT is a non-invasive three-dimensional scan that can show blood flow around the heart and any possible blockages in the arteries. It can supersede an angiogram, because of the 3D ability.

“You can have patients who may have been previously labeled as ‘oh, it’s normal’ who have symptoms and have risk factors that we can find a problem and make changes in terms of lifestyle and treatment earlier,” Dr. Craig Tucker said. “So it really changes what the doctors do. It changes what the patients do, lifestyle wise, and that’s been shown to prevent cardiovascular events.”

Tucker is a cardiologist at Norton Healthcare who specializes in cardiac imaging.

About a year ago, he came in contact with Dan English.

English had been referred to Dr. Tucker, because he was looking for another opinion.

About a year ago, English was at work when his vison went blurry and arms went numb.

Concerned, he drove himself to the hospital.

“Through my career of playing sports, I’ve had 13 different operations,” English said. “[I’ve had injuries to] both shoulders, knees, two back surgeries. [I’ve] got rods and screws in my back. It’s always, ‘we’ll take care of it and you’ll feel better.’ That was different because that was, ‘something is not right.’”

English underwent a series of tests that showed nothing more severe than high cholesterol.

Still, he felt unsettled.

“I wasn’t happy with everything,” Englsh said. “I mean, I was happy because I didn’t show any symptoms or results of heart attack. But I wasn’t happy with not knowing exactly what happened.”

Eventually, English met Dr. Tucker, who performed the FFR-CT scan.

The scan showed English’s left anterior descending artery, nicknamed “the widow-maker,” was beginning to narrow, because of calcium and plaque buildup. That stenosis was something they were unable to see on other scans.

Dr. Tucker determined it could be controlled through diet, medicine and exercise.

“I’m going to tell you this; it saved my life,” English said. “I’m still standing here. And like I said, it could’ve been three days. It could’ve been three years, but I’m standing here because I had this test done.”