In a few previous posts I had discussed the heart imaging test called an Ultra Fast CT scan. Touted by those who own the machines as the best early warning device for coronary artery disease, the machines and the tests have also had a multitude of critics due to the number of false positive results.

The test is supposed to take a snapshot of the heart and it’s arteries, ultra fast, so that the heart muscle in motion can be stopped. It’s purported strong point is that it can show plaque buildup. Absent this snapshot, blockage would have to be detected by thallium stress tests or stress echocardiograms.

The big selling point of the ultra fast ct scan is that it can show blockage without an invasive procedure. Unfortunately, the only way to conclusively determine if there is blockage and how much, is to do a backup angiogram and actually look inside. The real unfortunate outcome is that the ct scan has been incorrect in about 50% of cases, making the invasive procedure a waste of time.

I recently had a client who was practically pronounced dead on his ultra fast ct scan. He ranked in the 97th percentile for chances of having a blockage induced heart attack. He had a backup thallium stress test that showed no blockage or abnormalites, so the cardiologist did not recommend an angiogram. The first life insurance company we took it to waffled a bit, but came back with a borderline acceptable offer. We shopped it further and today hit a home run, with the company throwing out the ultra fast ct scan as irrelevant in the presence of a perfect thallium stress test.

Bottom line. There are people criss-crossing the country selling ultra fast ct scans at $400 a pop. If you choose to spend that money and get bad results, get a back up stress test from an actual cardiologist. If you get good results but have some reason for concern such as family history, or having risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol, diabetes or obesity, see a cardiologist anyway.