SALT LAKE CITY—Researchers from the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute are launching an ambitious research initiative to test a new standard of care to better identify and treat people at risk of having a heart attack. Findings from the study, which will involve more than 9,000 people in Utah, could possibly change the way cardiovascular-related diseases are diagnosed in the future – and potentially save thousands of lives due to more accurate screening.
The Intermountain Coronary Calcium study (CorCal study) is seeking to determine the best way to proactively identify patients who may be at high risk for coronary heart disease, in order to prevent future heart events. Researchers will test the effectiveness of presently existing standard heart prevention guidelines (centered around cholesterol testing), compared to a novel strategy that includes performing a low-dose CT scan of the heart to screen for the build-up of calcium in the arteries.
The presence of coronary calcium indicates a build-up of atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries to the heart and brain, and is associated with an increased risk of a future heart attack or stroke. Some patients enrolled in the study will undergo a CT heart scan, while others will not.
“The CorCal study will determine if adding a CT scan to the tests we already do will help to more accurately identify people that are at risk of a heart attack or stroke,” said J. Brent Muhlestein, principal investigator of the study and co-director of cardiovascular research at the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute.
The current American Heart Association standard is to test a person’s cholesterol levels through a lipid panel. Cholesterol levels are then used, along with other information, to determine a person’s atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk score. That score is used to predict a patient’s risk of developing heart disease in the next 10 years, and can guide healthcare providers in determining appropriate prevention treatments.
“Doing a CT scan will create a coronary artery calcium score. Looking at both scores together may identify people with coronary heart disease better than just using one score,” Muhlestein added. “It’s also possible that doing another test and looking at another score will not make any difference. Our goal is to find the test or group of tests that are the best at finding people with a risk of having a heart attack or stroke, so they can be prevented.”
Based on a person’s results, their primary care physicians may be notified if the person should start taking statins and/or aspirin to prevent potential future heart events.
Researchers will use Intermountain Healthcare’s electronic medical records system to identify patients who meet the study criteria, which includes being between 50 and 85 years old, not being on statins at the time of the study, and having no known history of diabetes or vascular disease of the heart.
Researchers will be reaching out to 90,000 potential enrollees by mail and email, and hope to enroll at least 9,000 into the randomized trial. The CorCal study is scheduled to run until March 2023. More information on the CorCal study is available here.