Wayne Nye, a 51-year-old father of three and a pharmacist at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, always took his family history seriously.
His father suffered his first heart attack in his early 50s and died from heart disease. It also claimed the lives of his maternal and paternal grandfathers. His uncle is currently battling the disease.
Wayne is conscientious about doing all the right things. He eats right and exercises. He runs three times a week. He keeps up with his blood pressure, cholesterol and other heart screenings.
At his physician’s recommendation, he also underwent a cardiac exercise test and a cardiac nuclear imaging stress test. The latter involves a small amount of nuclear isotope being injected into the bloodstream and images taken before, during and after exercise on a treadmill.
Wayne passed both with flying colors.
A new test and a new look
Today, a revolutionary imaging technology at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital is helping people understand the extent of their cardiac health.
For Wayne, this technology was introduced not a moment too soon.
Wayne was one of the first patients to be screened by the hospital's new, state-of-the-art GE LightSpeed 64-Slice VCT (Volume Computed Tomography) Scanner.
It is a non-invasive tool that allows physicians to capture images of unprecedented clarity and detail in five beats of the heart. A full body scan can be completed in 10 seconds.
"I wanted my physicians and my family to see what a great job I had done overcoming heredity," Wayne said.
He was given contrast dye to make his arteries visible and received medications to slow his heart and to dilate his arteries. When the heart reached a slow and steady rate of 60 beats per minute, he was ready to be scanned. Soon, doctors had the initial images of his heart. He was done with the test in a half hour.
Wayne found himself in the office of Sentara Martha Jefferson interventional radiologist Dr. Anthony Spinelli. Dr. Spinelli brought up the 3-D images, rotating 360 degrees, on his computer monitor. He then walked Wayne through a tour of his cardiovascular system, and showed him what no previous test could illuminate.
Two of the three major arteries that supply blood to Wayne's heart had narrowed by 50 percent, and there was a dangerous buildup of soft plaque that is often hard to detect in traditional CT scans and other testing procedures.
"Wayne in five years or less could have suffered the same fate as his father and grandfathers," said Dr. Spinelli.
Approximately 150,000 people not showing prior symptoms die suddenly of heart attacks every year. With the 64-slice CT scanner, the staff at Sentara Martha Jefferson hope to lower that number in by identifying those at risk who otherwise might seem in good cardiovascular health.
Wayne is working with his primary care physician to attack blood pressure, cholesterol and lipid agent-related issues, with a goal of cutting these numbers in half.
"I am glad I did the study, that's for sure,” Wayne said. “I would have gone around patting myself on the back with all the normal green light indicators, and now I know the whole story. The bottom line is I underestimated heredity, and no one should do that."