Every minute of every year an American drops dead of a heart attack, hundreds of thousands without any warning or prior symptom. But these people could have been saved. The Widowmaker ... See full summary »
This movie, though impressive, is also impressively misleading
I was one of the first researchers who proposed the use of coronary artery calcification to predict probability of heart attacks (calcium screening) and I played a major part in the development and testing of the technologies used for calcium screening. The producers of this film solicited my participation in their planned documentary and I declined participation.
When I was invited to participate, I was told by the interviewing staff member from the Widowmaker production team that the film was largely funded by one donor who was, for personal reasons, totally sold on the value of calcium screening as a way to detect those persons susceptible to heart attacks. It was obvious that this "documentary" film would not be an accurate portrayal of the history of the development of this technology nor would it represent anything like objective journalism regarding the test's actual value.
After viewing the film, I know I made the correct decision to not participate.
The film portrays a non-existent intellectual and economic battle between those who propose prevention of heart disease and those who propose intervention for those already suffering from heart disease. It appears almost as if these two "sides" are fighting each other; it seems from the film that one side wants to prevent heart attacks and deprive the other from the business in treating them and the intervention side is against prevention in order to get more business. This is a convenient, though inaccurate and unfair way to explain why many, including myself, who saw real value in calcium screening did not and still do not recommend its universal use for all those who might be worried about their risk of a heart attack.
Calcium screening is accepted by the medical community as a way to determine risk and to focus preventive interventions (like cholesterol lowering) on those at high risk for heart attacks. It is not accepted as a way to detect latent heart disease in everybody.
This approach of screening to determine risk is based on scientific evidence.
Those doctors who specialize in treating heart attacks and heart disease with interventions are not at all opposed to coronary calcium screening when used in this scientifically proved way.