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Radiologists offer non-invasive heart examination

Association of University Radiologists in Farragut off Parkside Drive offers a new procedure for taking images of the heart without invading a patient’s body.

Dr. Kenneth Rule, a radiologist with the firm, said the new procedure is called coronary CT angiography and it photographs images of the heart.

“With this new leap in C-T technology, we are able to image the coronary arteries of the heart,” he said. “They have traditionally been very difficult to image because of their small size with any procedure other than through a heart catheter.”

A heart catheter, Rule said, is a procedure in which a patient is confined to an examination table. A dye is injected into his or her blood stream. The doctor then punches a hole in a leg artery and snakes the catheter up toward the heart. After the procedure, the patient has to remain immobile quite a while for fear of putting pressure on the torn artery.

“The coronary C-T angiography looks at the heart without being invasive to the patient,” Rule said.

Rule said the CT angiography requires the injection of dye into the patient’s veins instead of an artery, which lessens the chance of a patient having a reaction to the dye. The dye makes the vessels dense enough to image and the radiologists are able to examine the heart images in a quicker period of time. The patient is able to have the procedure and leave within an hour.

“The coronary C-T angiogram that indicates a negative response, meaning there is do blockage or anything like that, is interpreted with ninety-seven percent accuracy,” Rule said.

A positive CTA, one where the patient has blocked arteries, has a 94 percent accuracy rate, he said.

“Another reason we are excited about this is because of the potential is has for helping people who don’t have any symptoms of cardiac disease,” Rule said. “Cancer is the number two killer of people. There’s not been as much of an effort put into the study of atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the


Rule said CTA technology could be used by physicians to diagnose potential problems in patients who are asymptomatic, but have a risk of heart disease. These symptoms could include family history of heart disease, weight, whether the patients smokes or drinks, age and a host of other factors.

Michael Langenberg, administrator for Association of University Radiologists, said the business has been in practice since 1984.

“There were three doctors in practice at The University of Tennessee Medical Center,” he said. “They got together in nineteen eighty-four and started this practice.”

Langenberg said the Association of University Radiologists is a provider of radiological services at The University of Tennessee Medical Center, but is an independent business.

The association has offices off Parkside Drive and at the Hawkins County Medical Center.

The business has 16 doctors in practice and Langenberg said the physicians sometimes rotate according to their specialty. Doctors familiar with the new CTA procedure, for example, would stay closer to the Parkside Drive offices since that is where the technology resides.

Some insurance companies, Rule said, have been reluctant to embrace the technology and its benefits.

So far, to the best of his knowledge, only Medicaid allowed the procedure. Others have been more reluctant.

For more information on the CT angiography and its benefits, call 865-544-6643.


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