Kathleen Shanks

Patient Success Stories

Medical Center Employee Credits New Non-Invasive Test With Detecting Dangerous Artery Blockage

Coronary Calcium Scoring, also known as heart scan, evaluates a person's risk of heart disease in less than an hour

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Kathleen Shanks, Security Project Coordinator at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), credits the new Coronary Calcium Scoring test for making her aware of a very important fact: a partial blockage in one of her coronary arteries.

Coronary Calcium Scoring (also known as heart scan), a non-invasive test available at the University of Maryland Heart Center through the University Imaging Center, can evaluate your risk for developing heart disease in less than an hour.

Shanks, an 11-year UMMC employee, first learned of Coronary Calcium Scoring at a Medical Center employee health fair last spring.

"When I first heard about it I thought, 'what a neat way to find out my risk,'" says Shanks.

Shanks had reason for concern; she suffered two small strokes several years ago with no prior symptoms, indication or family history. "I know about preventive medicine so I thought, "Let's go try it to rule out everything," she says. "It's an easy, non-invasive procedure that can really make a difference in whether you live or die."

Shanks' primary care doctor received the results shortly after the scan, which indicated a problem.  "I had a positive score, meaning I had a thickening in one area of my heart," she recalls. Her doctor then sent her for a couple of different cardiac stress tests. Both tests indicated a problem, so her doctor then referred her to Medical Center cardiologist R. Michael Benitez, M.D. "I went to Dr. Benitez because I like him, and my husband is also his patient," she said.

Dr. Benitez suggested that Shanks undergo a cardiac catheterization because of her history of stroke. "He wanted me to get it right away because it was that serious," she recalls.

After the cardiac catheterization, doctors discovered that one of her coronary arteries was 50 percent blocked, a finding Shanks found eye-opening. "With this information, if I were to present with symptoms I would react more quickly than I would have in the past," she says. "That's what makes this test so neat, because I had no symptoms. I know now that I have a blockage and if I feel symptoms, I'll take it seriously."

That's one of the reasons why Shanks thinks Coronary Calcium Scoring is "a marvelous opportunity and a wonderful benefit."

"There are many people who could be at risk for heart attack who could benefit from this test," Shanks says. "It allows people to take steps now to save their lives. I'm pleased and I'm glad I had the test."

For more information about Coronary Calcium Scoring (Heart Scan) or to schedule a test, call the University Imaging Center at 410-328-3225.

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