Coronary Artery Disease: Noninvasive Test | News | Loyola Medicine
Friday, September 4, 2015

Loyola only hospital in Illinois to offer new, noninvasive test of coronary artery disease

A new test employs noninvasive CT scans to calculate how much blood is flowing through diseased coronary arteries.

MAYWOOD, IL —  Loyola University Medical Center is the first and only hospital in Illinois to offer a new, noninvasive technology to test for coronary artery disease.

The technology employs noninvasive CT scans to calculate how much blood is flowing through diseased coronary arteries that have narrowed due to a buildup of plaque. The patient does not need to undergo an invasive angiogram that involves threading a catheter to the heart.

The test, developed by HeartFlow Inc., has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It’s called fractional flow reserve-computed tomography (FFRCT).

“FFRCT provides superior patient care and helps guide treatment strategies with a single, non-invasive study that is low risk and provides accurate information,” said cardiologist Mark Rabbat, MD, FSCCT, an assistant professor in the departments of Medicine and Radiology of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Dr. Rabbat said FFRCT can answer important clinical questions such as whether a patient has coronary artery disease. It can determine whether plaque in a coronary artery is restricting blood flow, thereby helping determine whether a patient would benefit from stents 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 muscles can cause angina (chest pain) and shortness of breath. If an artery becomes completely blocked, a patient can suffer a heart attack.

Blockages that reduce blood flow by a small amount can be treated with medical therapy such as cholesterol-lowering drugs or aspirin. But if there is a major reduction in blood flow, the patient may require a stent or bypass surgery.

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. If this blood pressure is less than 80 percent of the blood pressure in the aorta, a cardiologist may recommend a stent or bypass surgery.

The new FFRCT technique is noninvasive. CT scans create a digital 3D model of the arteries leading to the heart. Powerful computer models then simulate the blood 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.

“FFRCT is a game changer,” Dr. Rabbat said. “For the first time, we have a single comprehensive, non-invasive diagnostic test that offers both an anatomic assessment and the functional significance of coronary artery disease. We’re proud to be the first hospital in Illinois to offer this revolutionary technology to our patients.”

Learn more about Loyola Medicine's Heart and Vascular Center and nationally ranked cardiology program.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood 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. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park 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 in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, 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 $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity 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.