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University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Cardiovascular Institute Using New Method to Detect Coronary Artery Blockage

PITTSBURGH, February 28, 2000 — People with suspected obstructive coronary artery disease can now undergo a diagnostic procedure less invasive than coronary angiography to determine the extent of their artery blockage. Physicians at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Cardiovascular Institute are using electron beam tomography (EBT) to detect narrowing of the coronary arteries, a procedure that recently was approved by the Food and Drug Administration(FDA).

EBT is less invasive and potentially less expensive than the widely used cardiac catheterization, or coronary angiography.

EBT produces two and three-dimensional images of the heart and blood vessels by rapidly scanning the beating heart and arteries with X-rays to detect the presence of coronary artery blockages. It is an outpatient procedure which takes about 30 minutes, is minimally invasive (only requiring an intravenous injection of a contrast agent), painless, and virtually

risk-free. Patients do not have to be hospitalized following the test.

"The EBT is a valuable diagnostic tool for detecting coronary artery blockages and for monitoring patients with known coronary artery disease," said Daniel Edmundowicz, M.D., director of the Preventive Heart Care Center at the Cardiovascular Institute and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. "It may be particularly appropriate for patients with suspected coronary artery bypass blockages or return of blockages in their previously angioplastied coronary vessels.

The current, widely used procedure to determine artery blockage, coronary angiography, requires a puncture to be made in the patient's groin, a catheter guided into the coronary arteries and the injection of a contrast agent. Patients usually spend a day in the hospital following the procedure. In addition, there is a one to two percent risk of serious complications.

"The EBT scanner, in conjunction with an intravenous injection of contrast agent, provides excellent images of the heart and the major coronary arteries," Dr. Edmundowicz said. "It also can be instrumental in assisting clinicians in evaluating the function of the coronary arteries following heart bypass surgery."

The EBT scanner was the subject of recent studies by cardiologists at the Cardiovascular Institute and researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

Currently there are more than 3,500 cardiac catheterization labs in the United States performing more than two million coronary angiograms each year. Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of men and women in the United States and affects more than 70 million Americans. More than 1.5 million people will experience a heart attack this year and over 250,000 will die within an hour of their first symptom.

The EBT scanner is manufactured by Imatron, Inc., of South San Francisco.

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