Reporter: Shannon Samson
The CT scan takes 64 tiny pictures that are about the width of a credit card and then a computer reconstructs them.
Saint Mary's Medical Center wasn't using it for cardiac testing until now. And that delay turned to be perfect timing for one Cynthiana, Indiana man.
Since the fall, St. Mary's has been using its new 64-slice CT scanner to test just about every organ except the heart. Radiologist Dr. Steven Basinski says, "It's much more complicated. The heart is in constant motion. The blood vessels are very small. It's a tricky area to image."
The hospital had the software. The staff just needed training. So, one of the techs called her father-in-law, 67-year-old Dorris Brandenstein. "Whe wanted to know if I wanted to be in on the program and I said, 'Well if there's anything in there, I would like to know about it.' Well, they took the CT and sure enough, there was something in there."
Dr. Basinski describes the image they saw. "There's these bright areas that represent calcified plaque in the artery as well as right here." This is another of the 64 slices or cross-section images that shows the plaque blocking up to 80 percent of Dorris' blood vessel. He would end up having surgery.
"I had five bypasses." Dr. Basinski says patients with a low risk of heart disease are best suited for the non-invasive CT scan. But he says it's the minimally-invasive angiogram that's still the gold standard for determining artery thickness and blood flow.
Even though Dorris had a history of heart disease, he hadn't been showing any symptoms leading up to this episode. So for steering him toward any test at all, he owes it all to his daughter-in-law and divine intervention. "I don't understand it fully, but I believe God is taking care of us."
The CT scan shows where the plaque is in the arteries and someday it will also determine which deposits are most likely to rupture and cause a heart attack. Methods of characterizing the type of plaque are being refined. Many doctors report once patients see a realistic picture of their hearts, they're more likely to take better care of themselves.