Salem, VA, July, 2012 – LewisGale Medical Center offers one of the most effective imaging tests for detecting heart blockages in overweight and obese patients – ammonia heart scans using PET/CT.  For these patients, their size can often make it more challenging to get high-quality images, leading to more inconclusive exams and false positive results with traditional imaging tests used to determine the presence and extent of coronary artery disease.

“PET-CT with ammonia is the preferred way of performing cardiac imaging in significantly overweight patients,” said Jackson Kiser, M.D., LewisGale Radiology Department.  “It allows marked reduction of artifacts caused in these patients compared with conventional methods and allows for increased sensitivity for the detection of heart disease.”

This is an outpatient procedure that takes about an hour. The patient is injected with Ammonia N13, a specialized radioactive material used for imaging of the heart with PET/CT. These scans are commonly done on patients with chest pain, an abnormal EKG, and who have known or suspected heart disease.  The process uses about 75 percent less radiation of standard Nuclear Cardiology.

“With more Americans being overweight, it is imperative to have a method to safely and accurately image such patients,” said Dr. Kiser. “Due to its association with heart disease and other conditions linked with cardiac disease risk, early detection of coronary disease is critical so that appropriate treatment can be implemented.”

Based on the results, the doctor can determine if medication is necessary or if the patient may benefit from a procedure such as angioplasty to open a narrow or blocked artery.

LewisGale Medical Center is the first hospital in the region to have this option available to patients five days a week.