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Simple Screening; Life-Saving Result



Dave Schmidt regularly walked his Maltese poodle mix more than a mile, and, when the weather allowed, he spent as much time on the golf course as possible. He felt no obvious ill effects of heart disease, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, and figured he was as healthy as any man his age could be.

Had he blown off a simple screening, though, he now knows there’s a good chance he’d no longer be around.

“The good Lord was looking over my shoulder. That’s how I feel,” said the 70-year-old Alexander, N.D., man. “I just got another chance at life. At 70 years old, you usually don’t get that.”

A noninvasive cardiac calcium scoring screening at Sanford Health in Bismarck provided Schmidt that rare opportunity.

In early fall, Schmidt underwent the screening, which involves a quick CT scan of the heart using the region’s most advanced CT scanner. The image of the heart the scan produces shows how much calcified plaque is built up in the patient’s coronary arteries.

Radiologists use the image to assign a calcium score. The higher the score, the greater the chance the patient has coronary artery disease (CAD) and, thus, a greater chance of having a heart attack. Any score over 400 is extensive proof of CAD. Schmidt’s screen revealed a shockingly high score of 3,053.

“Coronary artery disease is much more prevalent than we used to think, and even those without symptoms are at risk for significant narrowing of their arteries,” said Matthew Iwamoto, MD, a Sanford Health radiologist. “These CT cardiac calcium scoring screenings show whether a patient has heart disease or is at risk for it.”

After reading Schmidt’s scan, Dr. Iwamoto immediately referred the patient to a Sanford Health cardiologist. Soon after, Schmidt was on the operating table at Sanford Health having quadruple bypass surgery.

Following surgery, Sean Russell, MD, the heart surgeon who performed the procedure, told Schmidt and his family that the blockage in his arteries was so pronounced that, without the bypass, a massive heart attack would’ve been likely.

After completing cardiac rehabilitation, Schmidt has taken advantage of his second chance.

For the second straight winter, he and his wife of 50 years, Darlene, escaped the cold of North Dakota for a rented winter home in Arizona. There, he exercises for at least an hour five days a week. He also continues his routine of walking his dog and golfs as much as possible.

“I did 18 holes yesterday,” he said in February.

All of it made possible by a simple screening.

“That was a piece of cake. You walk in there, they gave you a gown, you go in the room and about five minutes later, you’re done,” Schmidt said. “No pins. No needle. No nothing. There’s no pain. It takes more time to get in that little gown and get in there than the test itself.”

For more information on heart screening options at Sanford Health, click here.

Posted Date: October 2013

Simple Screening; Life-Saving Result

Dave Schmidt had a cardiac calcium scoring screening done using Sanford’s advanced CT scanner. His score was off the charts, and he was in having open heart surgery within days of the screening.