Heart screening pays off by detecting heart disease

May 7, 2019

GOSHEN, Ind. – Greg Thorne, Elkhart, had no symptoms of heart problems when he went in for a routine physical with his family doctor. All his vital signs checked out, and he felt healthy. When his doctor mentioned a $49 heart screening (to check his calcium score) for people over 50, Thorne thought it sounded like a good idea, even if he didn’t need it.
 
“I just thought it would be good to know my score,” he said.
 
What Thorne, 56, learned from his numbers changed his life – and may even have saved it.
 
“My numbers were outrageous,” said Thorne, who had the test at Goshen Hospital.
 
Screening detects risks before warning signs appear
 
The simple, painless test, called a computed tomography (CT) scan, measures the amount of calcium in blood vessels. The higher the number, the greater the risk of a heart attack in the next 10 years.
 
Thorne’s chart-topping score meant he was at a dangerously high risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
 
“Atherosclerosis causes the lining of the blood vessels to harden, calcify and thicken,” explained LeRoy Weaver Jr., MD, Diagnostic Radiologist at Goshen Heart & Vascular Center. “It can affect blood flow to anywhere in your body.”
 
For Thorne, a cardiac catheterization a week after the calcium test showed several blocked arteries, including one that was 100 percent blocked. Immediately after diagnosis, his doctors scheduled Thorne for quadruple bypass surgery at Elkhart General Hospital.
 
Simple, non-invasive test saves lives
 
Now Thorne has become an outspoken advocate for the calcium screening test.
 
“I tell people there’s no reason not to do it,” he said.
 
Many consider the screening as important as a mammogram or colonoscopy. If the test detects calcium in the heart, doctors can provide potentially life-saving medications, recommend lifestyle changes or offer advanced therapies, including surgery. (For people with heart or vascular risk factors, Goshen Hospital also offers a set of four free screenings when requested by a primary care provider.)
 
Although Thorne has told his story to dozens of friends and family, he knows some won’t get the screening. They may hesitate because of concerns about time or money. Or they fear what they will hear.
 
“It just depends on what life is worth to you,” he said.
 
Thorne is convinced the test saved his life. And for him, $49 was well worth it.