WORCESTER (CBS) — Many patients who have blockages in their coronary arteries undergo special CAT scans to evaluate the problems. Now UMass Memorial Medical Center is using new 3D imaging to get a more detailed look.

Joseph Callaghan, 79, has blockages in his coronary arteries. But his kidney disease complicates the picture, and it’s unclear whether he could benefit from heart surgery. 

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“I’m still under scrutiny by the doctors to determine what is the best course of treatment,” Callaghan said.

Joseph Callaghan, 79, has blockages in his coronary arteries. (WBZ-TV)

Doctors at UMass Memorial are for the first time getting a better look at Callaghan’s arteries with a non-invasive technology called the HeartFlow Planner.

The new modeling tool works by taking data from a patient’s CAT scan to develop a color-coded 3D model of the coronary arteries, while measuring drops in pressure along the vessels that indicate the degree to which the vessels have narrowed. It was cleared by the FDA in September. 

Callaghan is undergoing a coronary CAT scan to identify the location and degree of disease in his blood vessels. But when interpreting these factors can be difficult for some patients, doctors at UMass Memorial say the HeartFlow is providing new insight.

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Radiologist David Gerson said the technology gives him additional information for “a more specific recommendation to the cardiologist as to how to manage the patient.” 

Looking at images of Callaghan’s heart, Gerson noted that the disease in the right coronary artery was minimal. 

But on the left side, the HeartFlow measured a greater drop in pressure. 

“This red circle confirms that this vessel is completely blocked,” he said. 

Callaghan remains under scrutiny by doctors to determine the best course of treatment. And going forward, his doctors will certainly use the HeartFlow Planner to inform their decisions. 

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“I’m gathering as much information as I can possibly get to try to understand it,” Gerson said.

Dr. Mallika Marshall