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New exam to help St. Vincent’s target heart disease

Coming in July St. Vincent’s Chilton will have the ability to conduct calcium scoring exams for residents at risk for heart disease.

Patients will be required to get a referral from their physician in order to schedule an exam appointment.

“There’s no prep for it, and the test takes about 15 minutes,” Radiology Manager Alicia Ingram said. “We’ll get the radiologist to dictate a report and send that back to the physician. It’s painless, and there are no needles involved.”

According to Dr. Patrick Grant with the radiology department, the test will place a patient into a certain “risk category.”

“You can get a result back that says over the next 10 years you have a low risk, moderate risk and high-moderate or high risk of developing a coronary event,” Grant said.

From there, the patient will have a better understanding of whether they need to change their current lifestyle, and if so to what degree.

“The people that get a low result, can feel pretty good that in the next 10 years, they’re not going to be of high risk,” Grant said. “They can still make lifestyle modifications but don’t have to be treated as aggressively.”

To schedule an exam, patients will need to call 205-258-4500, which is the standard out-patient phone number for the hospital.

“It is a growth opportunity for our cardiovascular services line,” St. Vincent’s Chilton Administrator Shanon Hamilton said. “We identified two or three opportunities that we wanted to progress into as we grew, and the CT (computed tomography) calcium scoring was one of those. We were able to get some funding from the St. Vincent’s Foundation to purchase the software for this project.”

An exam will cost $49.

“I think the community will receive it well,” Hamilton said. “We have been able to put it at a price point to make sure that the price is not going to be a hinderance to somebody coming and getting a screening.”

According to Hamilton, most places offer calcium scoring testing for about $99.

The price will include the exam and the interpretation of the results as well.

“I think it’s a huge benefit to our community, because it’s a screening tool that allows us to screen patients for coronary artery disease,” Hamilton said. “These are patients that may have risk factors but may not be exhibiting symptoms.”

According to Hamilton, the purpose of screenings is to catch a disease early in the process before it has time to develop into a more complex issue down the road.

“There’s a lot of prevalence of heart disease in our community,” Hamilton said. “That’s why we felt so strongly about this service.”

Some of the risk factors for heart disease include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and being overweight or living a sedentary lifestyle.

“This is something that will impact lives for sure,” Hamilton said. “I’m ready to open it up and get going.”