Electron-Beam Computed Tomography
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Electron-Beam Computed Tomography

(EBCT; Ultrafast CT)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

Electron-beam computed tomography (EBCT) is a fast, highly sensitive, and noninvasive technique for detecting calcium build-up in coronary arteries. It uses an electron “gun” instead of a regular x-ray to scan the chest.

The degree of calcium build-up in coronary arteries is an accurate measure of the degree of atherosclerosis , a narrowing and hardening of the arteries that can lead to heart attack , stroke , and other serious conditions.

Varying Degrees of Atherosclerosis in Coronary Arteries

Stereostatic Biopsy

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

EBCT is useful in screening people for coronary heart disease (CHD) and cardiac events in their earliest stages, before symptoms (such as chest pain) actually arise. This is important because as many as half of all first coronary events, including sudden cardiac arrest and heart attack, occur in people with no symptoms of heart disease.

EBCT technology is limited because it is relatively new and still undergoing evaluation. Some insurers do not cover the procedure.

Parts of the Body Involved

EBCT scans are normally used to evaluate coronary arteries in the chest.

Reasons for Procedure

EBCT is used for the following purposes:

  • To determine short-term risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in people with no symptoms
  • To determine likelihood of CHD in people with abnormal chest pain
  • To determine advancement or decline of CHD in people being treated for CHD (ie, those taking cholesterol-lowering medications)
  • To evaluate the state of a bypass graft following coronary artery bypass graft surgery

Coronary Artery Bypass Graft

Nucleus image

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor will discuss your overall health and medical history, including any risk factors you have for coronary heart disease, to determine if EBCT screening is appropriate in your case. EBCT is normally recommended for men over 40 and women over 45.

Anesthesia

No anesthesia is necessary for this procedure.

Description of the Procedure

You will be asked to lie down on a padded table under an arch-shaped scanner. You may remain clothed and your head will not be enclosed at any time. The scanner moves over your body and takes pictures of your internal organs. During the scan, you will be asked to hold your breath to help you remain motionless, but you may breathe during pauses. A radiographer who runs the scan will be present throughout the scan and will respond to any questions or concerns you have.

How Long Will It Take?

The procedure takes about 10-15 minutes, and the actual scanning time is only a few seconds.

Will It Hurt?

No, EBCT causes no discomfort.

Possible Complications

There are no known complications of EBCT. EBCT is considered a safe test which allows for minimal radiation exposure.

Average Hospital Stay

None. EBCT is an outpatient procedure.

Outcome

The EBCT software used is able to measure the size and density of calcium deposits in your arteries, reported as your “calcification score.”

Depending on your score, your doctor will discuss any measures you should take to decrease your risk of coronary heart disease, such as increasing exercise or taking medication. Your doctor may also recommend further diagnostic testing or even surgery if your score is very high.

RESOURCES:

American College of Cardiology
http://www.acc.org

American College of Radiology
http://www.acr.org/s_acr/index.asp

American Heart Association
http://www.americanheart.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Cardiovascular Society
http://www.ccs.ca/home/index_e.aspx

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
http://ww2.heartandstroke.ca/Page.asp?PageID=24

References:

American College of Radiology website. Available at: http://www.acr.org . Accessed December 1, 2006.

Computer imaging/tomography. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4554#electron. Accessed December 1, 2006.

Electron-beam computed tomography (EBCT or helical or fast CT for determining cardiac calcification). Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) website. Available at: http://www.advamed.org/publicdocs/electronbeam.html. Accessed December 1, 2006.

Electron-beam tomography scan. British Heart Foundation website. Available at: http://www.bhf.org.uk/questions/index.asp?secondlevel=1157&thirdlevel=1624. Accessed December 1, 2006.

O’Rourke R, Brundage B, Froelicher V, Greenland P, Grundy S, Hachamovitch R, et al. American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association expert consensus document on electron-beam computed tomography for the diagnosis and prognosis of coronary artery disease. Circulation . 2000;102:126. Available at: http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/102/1/126 . Accessed December 1, 2006.



Last reviewed April 2008 by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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