Magazine article Science News

Rapid X Ray Opens Window to Arteries

Magazine article Science News

Rapid X Ray Opens Window to Arteries

Article excerpt

A century ago, a photographer used high-speed photos to prove that a galloping horse lifts all four hooves off the ground.

Today, the same principle of rapid exposures drives a $2 million device known as an ultrafast CT scanner. Capturing 10 X-ray images each second, the scanner enables doctors to peer into pulsing coronary arteries and identify blockages with 95 percent accuracy.

As any camera buff knows, rapid exposures can record an instant so brief that a moving object registers as a still image on film. Standard CT scans, in contrast, require exposures lasting 2 seconds. "When you're shooting with a conventional scanner, you get a blur," says Arthur S. Agatston, of Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Fla., one of 12 researchers at six medical centers nationwide who report their findings in the March 1 Circulation. The new technique depicts fatty deposits, called plaque, which obstruct blood flow. The scans can detect plaque because it is laced with calcium, which X rays cannot penetrate. On standard CT scans, these deposits show up indistinctly; on ultrafast CT scans, they stand out clearly.

Using both ultrafast CT scans and conventional angiography, the researchers studied 710 people with suspected heart disease. The CT scans detected plaque in 404 of 427 patients with blocked arteries. Of the patients in whom the scans failed to detect blockages, only four had two or more blocked arteries. Consequently, the researchers calculate, ultrafast CT scans predict 90 percent of coronary artery disease in people with a single blocked artery and at least 97 percent in people with multiple blocked vessels. …

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