Panic in the streets 29. November 2006 William Davis (0) Several days ago, I wrote about a local prominent judge in my neighborhood who was unexpectedly found dead in bed of a heart attack at age 49. As expected, I've received multiple calls from patients and physicians who want heart catheterizations. For instance, an internist I know called me in a panic. He asked that I perform a heart catheterization in a patient with a heart scan score of 768. I've been seeing this patient for about a year. He's without symptoms, even with strenuous exercise; stress tests (i.e., tests of coronary bloow flow) have been normal. I remind patients and colleagues every day, day in day out: Having a heart scan score revealing some measure of coronary plaque is not a sufficient reason by itself to proceed with procedures. Fear of suffering a fate like the unfortunate judge is also not a reason to proceed with procedures. Increased awareness of the gravity of heart disease is a good thing. Some good can come out of a needless tragedy like this. The lesson from the judge's unfortunate experience: he needed a CT heart scan. I'm told that the judge's doctor advised him that a heart scan was a waste of time. I hope that appropriate legal action for negligence is taken by the judge's family against this physician. Not doing a heart scan is wrong. That's the lesson to learn. The lesson is not that everybody with coronary plaque needs a procedure. Had the judge undergone a simple heart scan, intensified prevention could have been instituted and he'd still be alive with his wife and children today.The indications for procedures are unchanged by your heart scan. If a stress test is abnormal and indicates poor flow to a part of the heart, that would be a reason. If symptoms like chest discomfort or breathlessness appear, that's an indication. If there's evidence of poor heart muscle contraction, that's a reason to proceed with a procedure. But just having coronary plaque is not a sufficient reason.