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How Heart Scan AI Technology Can Save Your Life

Heart Health
Author name: Lee Health


heart technology graphic

The below story is true, but the physician requested anonymity to protect his privacy.

One of our Lee Health Primary Care physicians leads an active lifestyle that keeps him in athletic shape. The 58-year-old eats mostly a plant-based diet, plays competitively in a senior tennis league, and maintains his weight well within national guidelines.

There’s no history of heart disease in his family, either. Board-certified in family medicine, this doctor advocates for his patients to stay current with annual check-ups and preventive health screens. So, he was all in when a medical colleague recommended that he “check in with his heart health” and voluntarily get a coronary artery scan with Lee Health Cardiology.

In September, he underwent his CCTA with AI at Lee Health’s HealthPark Medical Center.

The results floored him.

The scan, called a computed tomography angiography (CCTA) with artificial intelligence (AI), identified a blocked coronary artery.

“The scan potentially saved my life,” he says.

Effective Imaging

The CCTA with AI is a non-invasive diagnostic imaging test that produces 3D images of the arteries in the heart to detect abnormalities in how blood flows through the heart. CCTA, as a diagnostic tool, has been around for decades to diagnose cardiovascular disease.

But the addition of AI to the procedure is a new wrinkle that’s potentially saving lives.

Many heart attacks can be prevented if plaque in arteries can be accurately identified in advance. Until recently, there wasn’t a practical way to determine how much plaque had built up in a patient’s arteries.

Plaque, or atherosclerosis, develops when cholesterol, fat, blood cells and other substances in the blood form plaque. As the plaque builds up, it can narrow arteries, which reduces the supply of oxygen-rich blood to tissues of vital organs in the body. If left untreated, the condition, known as coronary heart disease (CAD), can lead to heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.

The CCTA with AI platform helps physicians precisely identify, define, and treat heart disease at its earliest stages when it’s most treatable.

Heart attack: A potentially silent killer

Nearly half of all people in the United States who die of sudden cardiac arrest experience no symptoms (asymptomatic) before their heart attack. Heart disease, the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., claims about 695,000 lives each year, mostly due to CAD.

In our physician’s case, he thought he was heart healthy because he didn’t show any of the typical symptoms associated with a heart blockage.

“I didn’t have any signs of angina (chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart), shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness,” he says. “I felt physically fit from playing tennis at a competitive level and eating a healthy diet that emphasizes mostly plant-based foods and healthy fats. I don’t smoke and limit my intake of carbohydrates and refined sugar.”

The power of AI technology combined with CCTA offers significant potential in cardiovascular disease monitoring and prevention by precisely identifying and measuring the amount of plaque in a person’s artery the unaided human eye can’t detect.

AI-driven CCTA analysis enables early heart disease detection

The CCTA with AI scan, more precisely called a digital care platform, is designed to identify patients who are at an increased risk for developing a heart attack (and some who may be at high risk) before any symptoms can develop. This allows physicians and patients to work together through early medical intervention to lower the patient’s risk for a heart attack.

Lee Health’s well-established CCTA program uses an advanced machine learning and AI product from a company called Cleerly. The company uses proprietary and FDA-cleared AI software to non-invasively analyze plaque and stenosis (narrowing of an artery) using a standard CCTA scan.

READ: What is a CCTA scan?

In as little as one hour, the Lee Health CCTA program with AI, alongside a physician, generates a report detailing characteristics of any present coronary artery plaque. Using millions of annotated CCTA images, Cleerly AI algorithms quantify and characterize plaque and its features. The findings are then compared to raw images and analyzed by a trained physician.

Lee Health was the first hospital system in Florida to provide this specific non-invasive, AI-powered imaging to rapidly detect plaque buildup, predict potential heart problems and better help prevent heart disease.

“Like me, you may not have a family history or any symptoms but have something lurking in the background,” the Lee Health physician says. “Medical technology has advanced so much, and so many conditions can be discovered with appropriate testing. If we can measure and figure out what's going on in advance, we can control our health.”

At Lee Health, CCTA with AI is currently available through a self-pay program. Contact Lee Health at 239-343-7221 for more information.

Lee Health Heart Institute

In an alliance with Cleveland Clinic’s Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute, the nation’s leader in heart care, Lee Health Heart Institute is raising our level of heart care even higher – while earning the reputation as the region’s most trusted cardiovascular team.

Find a Lee Health Heart Care Physician

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