Gary's Story

A ‘sale’ on heart scans turned out to be a ‘lifesaver’

Patient Stories
Gary Des Lauriers

Do you like to take advantage of discounts and sales?  Gary Des Lauriers found one that may have saved his life.

In February and March, Rush offers the heart scan for just $69. It is a quick and painless way to discover potential heart problems, especially for the nearly 35% of people who suffer heart attacks with no previous symptoms. No referral is needed for those aged 40 or older.

Gary decided to take advantage of the “sale” and had the scan performed. “I’m not the healthiest person in the world,” he says. “I went and had it done to establish a baseline.” 

Test takes minutes

Two years later, Gary again took advantage of the discounted price and had another scan. The test took less than five minutes, Gary says, but an hour later, he received a call from the center instructing him to rush the results to his cardiologist.

Ideally, the score should be zero, say Rush experts. This number increases as plaque builds up. Gary’s score was 7,000. His very high score, along with some symptoms, led directly to cardiac catheterization — inserting a thin, flexible tube into a chamber or vessel of the heart for diagnostics or as an intervention.

The additional testing showed that Gary had a blockage of about 90% in one artery, and he needed a stent to open the blockage. He was in the category of 20% most likely to have a heart attack.

Detecting problems before symptoms occur

Advanced, multidetector CT scanning technology is used to generate a detailed 3-D image of the heart that helps doctors detect plaque buildup before symptoms occur. The scan can reveal several kinds of heart abnormalities, including plaque buildup in the coronary arteries (which helps determine risk for heart disease), congenital heart disease (problems present at birth, which can cause health issues for adults, if untreated), heart valve defects and diseases, blockages in the arteries that supply the heart, tumors or masses in the heart and problems with the heart’s ability to pump.

The test is recommended for people between the ages of 40 and 75 who have not previously been diagnosed with heart disease but have at least two of the following risk factors: diabetes, family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, physical inactivity or smoking. The scan itself takes less than one minute, but the appointment is 30 minutes long to include time for check-in and questionnaire completion. The image is obtained in a single breath hold while the patient relaxes on the CT table. No special prep, exercise or injections are required.

Indicates potential problems

Those at low to intermediate risk of heart disease benefit most from this test, as the test results can further clarify their level of risk and need for additional treatments or tests. Rush cardiologists say the score should always be interpreted in context of the overall patient risk and incorporated with other known risk factors of heart disease like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. 

Gary had the stent placed, then completed 12 weeks of workouts in Rush Copley’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Center. Under the guidance of specially trained nurses and staff, he used the latest fitness equipment to help rebuild strength and confidence and has learned how to maintain a healthy lifestyle through diet as well.

‘Well worth the price’

It has been two years since Gary’s surgery.

“I am doing fine and I’m extremely grateful for the discount, imaging and Rush doctors,” he says.

Had he not taken advantage of the special pricing on this scan, Gary says he likely would have suffered a heart attack. He strongly encourages others to take the test.

“Go do it,” he says. “It’s well worth the price. It was a lifesaver for me.”

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