Intermountain Healthcare

Intermountain Healthcare Study to Figure out Best Way to Identify Heart Disease Risk and Stop Heart Attacks from Happening


Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 10/29/2019 --Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute researchers are launching one of the largest and most ambitious research initiatives ever undertaken in the state of Utah to test a new standard of care to better identify and treat people at risk of having a heart attack -- and to potentially stop it before they ever have one.

The Intermountain Coronary Calcium study, or CorCal study for short, will involve more than 90,000 people in Utah and could possibly change the way cardiovascular-related diseases are diagnosed in the future -- potentially saving thousands of lives due to more accurate screening and better diagnosis.

The first-of-its-kind study is seeking to determine the best way to proactively identify patients who may be at high risk for coronary heart disease to prevent a future heart event and is unique as participants will register online.

For the study, researchers will test the effectiveness of presently existing standard heart prevention guidelines (centered around cholesterol testing) compared to a novel strategy that includes performing a low-dose CT scan of the heart to screen for the build-up of calcium in the arteries.

The presence of coronary calcium indicates a build-up of atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries to the heart and brain and is associated with an increased risk of a future heart attack or stroke. Some patients enrolled in the study will undergo a CT heart scan, while others will not.

"The CorCal study will determine if adding a CT scan to the tests we already do will help to more accurately identify people that are at risk of a heart attack or stroke," said J. Brent Muhlestein, principal investigator of the study and co-director of cardiovascular research at the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute.

Currently, the American Heart Association standard is to test a person's cholesterol levels through a blood test called a "lipid panel". Cholesterol levels are then used with other information to determine a person's atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk score that is used to predict their risk of developing heart disease in the next 10 years and can guide healthcare providers in determining appropriate prevention treatments.

"Doing a CT scan will create a coronary artery calcium score. Looking at both scores together may identify people with coronary heart disease better than just using one score," Dr. Muhlestein added. "It's also possible that doing another test and looking at another score will not make any difference. Our goal is to find the test or group of tests that are the best at finding people with a risk of having a heart attack or stroke, so they can be prevented."

Based on a person's results, their primary care physicians may be notified if those people should start taking statins and/or aspirin to prevent potential future heart events.

Developing an accurate test and standard of care to determine a person's risk of heart disease is vital. Heart disease is the single largest killer of American men and women -- and about one-third of all heart-related deaths happen in people with no warning symptoms.

Researchers will use Intermountain Healthcare's electronic medical records system to identify patients who meet the study criteria, which includes being between 50 and 85 years old, not being on statins at the time of the study and having no known history of diabetes or vascular disease of the heart.

Researchers will be reaching out to 90,000 potential enrollees by mail and email and hope to enroll at least 9,000 into the randomized trial. The CorCal study is scheduled to run until March 2023.

This potentially groundbreaking research initiative is made possible by a major donation and funding to the Intermountain Foundation from Utah businessman, community benefactor, and professional sports owner Dell Loy Hansen, who will join with the Intermountain researchers in announcing the launch of the study.

For more information, go to the Intermountain CorCal study site at:

About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For more information, see