Medicare Now Covers Noninvasive Heart Test | Heart & Vascular | Loyola Medicine
Thursday, January 4, 2018

Medicare Now Covers Noninvasive Heart Test

MAYWOOD, IL –  Loyola Medicine is the leading center in Illinois offering a new noninvasive test for heart disease that now is covered by Medicare.
 
The test employs CT scans to calculate blood flow through coronary arteries. In some patients, this may eliminate the need for an invasive coronary angiogram.
 
The test, called fractional flow reserve-computed tomography (FFR-CT), was developed by HeartFlow, Inc. FFR-CT has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services began paying for the technical component of the test, beginning January 1, 2018. Some major private insurers already have begun covering the test, and others are expected to follow Medicare's lead.
 
"Medicare coverage is a major milestone," said Loyola Medicine cardiologist Mark Rabbat, MD. "Millions of Americans now can potentially benefit from this game-changing technology."
 
Loyola University Medical Center was the first hospital in Illinois and the second in the country to offer FFR-CTLoyola has performed the test on more than 400 patients. Also, Dr. Rabbat is first author of a report in the Journal of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography that describes how to interpret and report the FFR-CT exam.
 
Dr. Rabbat said FFR-CT can answer important clinical questions such as whether plaque in a coronary artery is restricting blood flow, thereby helping determine whether a patient would require medications, stenting or bypass surgery.
 
More than 16 million adults in the United States have coronary artery disease. The condition occurs when a buildup of plaque narrows arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to heart muscle. Reduced blood flow to heart muscle can cause angina (chest pain) and shortness of breath. If an artery becomes completely blocked, a patient can suffer a heart attack.
 
The measure of blood flow is called fractional flow reserve (FFR). Until now, the standard test for measuring FFR involved an invasive angiogram. A catheter (thin tube) is inserted in the groin or arm and guided to the heart. A thin wire then is guided through the catheter to the blockage. A sensor near the tip of the wire measures blood pressure. If blood flow is reduced, the blood pressure downstream from the blockage also will be reduced.  
 
The new FFR-CT technique is noninvasive. CT scans create a digital 3D model of the arteries leading to the heart. Powerful computer models then simulate the flow within those arteries to assess whether blood flow has been restricted by any narrowings. A color-coded map helps physicians determine, vessel by vessel, if sufficient blood is flowing to the heart.
 
"In many patients, FFR-CT can safely eliminate the need for an invasive angiogram," Dr. Rabbat said. "In other cases, it can detect heart disease that standard-of-care tests are missing."

About Loyola Medicine

Loyola Medicine is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC) in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH) in Melrose Park, MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from more than 1,772 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. The medical center campus is also home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. GMH is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments in a convenient community setting. Loyola Medicine is a member of Trinity Health, one of the nation’s largest health systems with 94 hospitals in 22 states.

About Trinity Health

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 93 hospitals, as well as 122 continuing care programs that include PACE, senior living facilities, and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $17.6 billion and assets of $23.4 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity Health employs about 131,000 colleagues, including 7,500 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity Health is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services — ranked by number of visits — in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs. For more information, visit www.trinity-health.org. You can also follow @TrinityHealthMI on Twitter.