It would have been a surprise heart attack, but new imaging technology revealed a hidden danger

The CT-FFR stands out in stories like Tony Seadler’s because of its ability to find something other tests can miss. In Tony’s case, it immediately showed a blockage in his circumflex coronary artery.

Something just wasn’t sitting right with Tony Seadler. The 66-year-old Pewee Valley, Kentucky, native felt himself growing tired very easily, and the long walk down his 600-foot driveway had his full attention.

“I had to stop two or three times on the way up the driveway,” Tony said. “My neck was hurting really badly. At that point, I said to myself, ‘This isn’t right.’”

It was, as Tony called it, his “come-to-Jesus” moment.

What happened in the weeks and months that followed just may have saved Tony’s life. He visited Renee V. Girdler, M.D., his primary care doctor at Norton Community Medical Associates. She referred him to cardiologist James M. Kammerling, M.D., with Norton Heart & Vascular Institute. Tony’s doctors had performed electrocardiograms and stress tests, but the results showed nothing concerning.

When Tony returned for a follow-up appointment a few months later, he still had neck pain. He had no chest pain and no back pain — no other common indicators that something might be off with the longtime telecommunications worker’s cardiovascular health.

“That was when Dr. Kammerling said we needed to do something,” Tony said.

A discovery by a new tool, the computed tomography-fractional flow reserve (CT-FFR) imaging analysis, very likely prevented a heart attack.

“The CT-FFR is noninvasive and actually lets us see the heart arteries and determine if there is blockage. This test is a real game-changer.”

James M. Kammerling, M.D.

Cardiology team springs into action after discovery

The CT-FFR stands out in stories like Tony’s because of its ability to find something other tests can miss. In Tony’s case, it immediately showed a blockage in his circumflex coronary artery.

The finding caught Dr. Kammerling by surprise, according to Tony. His heart care team sprang into action, handling the situation with urgency.

The diagnosis brought back some tough memories for Tony. His father had a stroke in his early 50s and then bypass surgery. To him, news of a blocked artery naturally generated concerns about open heart surgery.

There were, of course, great worries from his family, too. His wife, Debbie, described Tony as “the rock of the family,” the guy everyone goes to for help with car issues or just about anything.

“We call him the beautiful mind,” Debbie said.

Instead of complicated surgery, much to Tony’s surprise and relief, the procedure to open up his blockage was done through a cardiac catheterization at Norton Audubon Hospital. He lauded Dr. Girdler, Dr. Kammerling, Norton Audubon Hospital staff and Norton Cardiac & Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center for taking such great care of him.

“Those folks were absolutely great,” Tony said. “They really set you at ease. I’m sure they see people who’ve never been through it all the time. I was truly amazed at almost immediate results — I felt great!”

Seven months since the procedure, Tony not only feels better but has lost 25 pounds. He and Debbie are quick to add that he is not out of the woods — they still have to watch his diet and keep an eye on his health.

“The technology available now blows me away,” Tony said. “It’s really crazy for people not to get these checkups. It’s so easy to blow things off. I’m so glad I didn’t.”

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