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One of a kind heart test being pioneered at St. Paul’s Hospital

WATCH: A new non-invasive diagnostic procedure at Vancouver's St. Paul's Hospital is cutting back on invasive surgeries.

Technology and health care can often be a double-edged sword. New tests can mean better patient outcomes, but they often come with a hefty price tag.

But that’s not what’s happening at St. Paul’s Hospital. A new heart procedure – the first of its kind in Canada – is offering much higher quality patient care, but a much lower cost to taxpayers.  

Radiologists are using highly sensitive CT scans to take a snap shot of patients coronary arteries. The images are then run through a super computer which uses fluid dynamics to calculate blood flow and pressure gradients.

The resulting 3D model is then used to show where arteries are blocked, and how bad the blockage is. Dr. Jonathon Leipsic says the level of accuracy is astounding.

“I wouldn’t have thought 10 years ago I’d be sitting here talking about being able to use fluid dynamics to solve these equations on super computers,” says Leipsic.

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WATCH: Dr. Jonathon Leipsic of St. Paul’s Hospital discusses his work

Extended Interview: Jonathon Leipsic
Extended Interview: Jonathon Leipsic

By using the data, doctors are able to better determine who needs invasive heart procedures like an angiogram. It saves the health care system money by reducing work loads and freeing up valuable time in the operating room.  

Sixty per cent fewer patients need to undergo treatment, and almost all of them are given just medication. There is always a risk relying solely on computers, but Leipsic says this test doesn’t replace invasive testing, it just adds another tool to better treat patients.  

“This is a gate-keeper. Not a replacement. When we do a CT scan and we see a narrowing, we can either send them to the cath lab…or give them medicine,” he says.

“The human eye can’t tell what’s best. This test augments our knowledge.”

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The test does require specialized equipment – the next generation CT scanners are more sensitive and can capture the entire heart in just one beat. The added expense is offset by downstream benefits of fewer people needing to operated on.

After John Grosse’s doctor noticed an anomaly, he was sent for a cardiac CT scan. The test took just 30 minutes, and he was able to get results almost immediately. The test showed his arteries have build up, but not to the point he would benefit from an angiogram.  

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Now the 77 year old can monitor his condition with medication. It comes as a big relief knowing he won’t have to under the knife.

“I was amazed how much they could do in such a short time,” said Grosse.