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EBCT – Priceless

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Dr. Friedman recommends for many patients to undergo a relatively new test to evaluate their heart status, called the “electron beam CT scan” (EBCT).

This is often part of what is called a “body scan,” which also looks for lung cancer and other types of cancer. The electron beam CT scan of the heart detects early calcification in the heart vessels. Early calcification is a sign of atherosclerosis (coronary heart disease, cholesterol plaques in heart vessels), which is the main cause of death for most Americans.

Therefore, screening for atherosclerosis is of primary importance, and as an endocrinologist, Dr. Friedman is very concerned with reducing your risks for developing diseases, such as atherosclerosis. Many endocrine conditions, including growth hormone deficiency, Cushing’s disease
and hypothyroidism predispose patients for atherosclerosis.

The electron beam CT scan of the heart is done at most major medical centers and costs between $350 and $500. Sometimes it is covered by insurance but often is not. It is a relatively quick procedure that takes about five minutes and one usually gets a preliminary reading at the time it is done. Patients get a calcium score, which indicates how much calcium plaque the patient has in his or her heart’s vessels. It tells you the number of plaques and how big they are, to come up with a calcium score, and also usually tells which coronary artery contains the plaque.

In some circumstances, if the calcium plaques are in a dangerous region, such as in the main coronary artery called the left anterior descending, it may be more dangerous than having them in a more minor heart vessel. A person can get a zero score, which is ideal; and the lower the score, the better. Generally, a score above 300 is considered dangerous. However, recent studies show that the higher the score, the more likely you are to get heart disease, no matter what the score is.

Dr. Friedman recommends this test in patients that are being considered for treatment of elevated cholesterol and points out that the cholesterol is only a marker for heart disease, and it is much better to look for actual heart disease.

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EmpowHER Guest

I had an EBBT last year following a very good stress echocardiagram - 10.5 minutes for a 65-yr old male and good ejection fractions on the echo. I have been on statins for years and my LDL has been kept below 100 for a long time (now we are pushing for below 70). I bicycle about 40 miles /week and have no cardiac symptoms. I do have frequent PACs and a Right Bundle Branch Block. I also had carotid and aorta ultrasounds and they found 20-30% blockage.

My EBCT Ca score was 4600 (not a typo)! The problem is that no one can tell me what that means in an asymptomatic 65 year old male. My Cardiologist would like to do a catheterization, but I don't think the risk is justified since this one number says there is a problem, but all the other data indicates I am not much at risk.


September 1, 2010 - 4:54pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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