Check Up 13: Heart scan results surprise Fishers woman

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FISHERS, Ind. (WTHR) - Heart disease is very familiar to De De O'Connor. Her mother and brother both required heart bypass surgery.

But at 60 years old, O'Connor felt healthy and strong. Any shortness of breath she experienced O'Connor attributed to overexertion.

The family history was nagging at her enough that she set up a double heart scan date night. The plan was she and her husband would get a quick CT scan and then go out to dinner.

The results were immediate. His calcium score was a perfect zero. Doctors say they take notice of score greater than 300.

O'Connor's score was a whopping 2100. She was shocked. The couple canceled dinner and called a cardiologist.

"The heart scan is able to quantify the amount of calcium you have in your heart arteries. The amount of calcium you have in your heart arteries correlates very nicely with your risk for having heart artery blockages," said Dr. Peter Walts M.D., a cardiovascular surgeon at St. Vincent Hospital.

A follow up cardiac catheterization, where a catheter is inserted into a chamber or vessel of the heart, revealed O'Connor had four significant blockages. The discovery led to quadruple bypass surgery Christmas week 2018.

Now, O'Connor is cleared for cardiac rehab.

Walts says her prognosis is promising.

"Not be alarmist about it, but the interesting thing about heart disease is symptoms are not really a reliable indicator of a problem. That is why these screening studies can be so valuable. For De De it's worked out very, very well and applied appropriately, it can be life-saving" Walts said.

The CT scan does expose the patient to low levels of radiation, so to minimize the risk, the key is to screen the right patient population.

Walts says anyone too young is unlikely to have a calcium build up and the older the patient is, the more likely they are to have a degree of calcium.​

He says the sweet spot for screening is for patients ages 50-75 who also have one or more of these risk factors:

  • Family history of heart or vascular disease
  • Stress
  • Diabetes
  • High blood cholesterol levels (greater than 160/LDL)
  • High blood pressure (greater than 140/90)
  • Current smoker
  • Obese
  • Physical inactivity
  • Poor Diet
  • Poor Dental Health

O'Connor is back to caring for her grandson, Ryan. Her daughter, Colleen Middleton, now has a heightened awareness of her genetics and the value of health screenings.

"Looking back, it's just the biggest blessing because if she wouldn't have gone for the heart scan, odds are she would have had a pretty massive heart attack within the next couple of months," said Middleton.

If you want to learn more about the $49 heart scan and if you qualify, click here.

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