A study conducted by the University of Edinburgh in the UK has demonstrated that the use of computed tomography angiogram (CTA) to test people with chest pain can cut down heart attack rates.

CTA scans are intended to identify patients with heart disease, thereby allowing provision of appropriate treatments to prevent heart attacks.

The university research team has called for existing guidelines to integrate the medical scan into routine care to be updated.

“The medical scan was found to have helped decrease the proportion of patients suffering a heart attack within five years by 40%.”

British Heart Foundation associate medical director Jeremy Pearson said: “This scan saves lives. Patients who receive CT-angiography in hospital are better off than those who don’t.

“They’re more likely to receive lifesaving drugs and treatments like statins in the earlier stages of disease, which leads to fewer heart attacks in the long run.”

The SCOT-HEART study monitored more than 4,000 patients referred to hospital with symptoms of angina, a disorder characterised by restriction of blood supply to the heart.

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During the study, 50% of the participants were given CTA along with standard diagnostic tests.

The medical scan was found to have helped decrease the proportion of patients suffering a heart attack within five years by 40%.

While the number of patients undergoing additional procedures rose during the first year, the volume was found to have levelled out by the end of the study duration.

Based on the findings, the researchers concluded that incorporation of the scans into routine care can potentially prevent an increase in costly tests or additional heart surgery.

University of Edinburgh professor David Newby said: “This is the first time that CT guided management has been shown to improve patient outcomes with a major reduction in the future risk of heart attacks.

“This has major implications for how we now investigate and manage patients with suspected heart disease.”

The inexpensive CTA medical scan is expected to eliminate the need for invasive angiogram procedure, which requires insertion of tubes into the body and heart to detect heart attack risk.