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CT Cardiac Calcium Scoring
What is CT Cardiac Calcium Scoring?
CT Cardiac Calcium Scoring is a non-invasive, pain-free and inexpensive scan used to assess coronary artery disease. The result of this scan is called a coronary calcium score.
The exam requires a quick "CT" or "CAT" scan, which is an abbreviation for "computerized tomography". The CT scanner is a doughnut-shaped machine that takes pictures of cross-sections (“slices”) of your body.
Calcium is a marker of coronary artery disease (CAD), and this exam identifies the location and extant of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries, which are the vessels that supply oxygen to the heart wall. The amount of calcium or plaque detected in your coronary arteries is used to establish your cardiac score.
Why would I need CT Cardiac Calcium Scoring?
This method is used to detect coronary artery disease at an early stage, before there are symptoms. Know your facts regarding heart disease:
- 58 million Americans have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease.
- Coronary disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States.
- More Americans die of heart disease than all types of cancer combined.
- At least 250,000 people a year die of a heart attack within one hour of the onset of symptoms and before they reach a hospital
- 12 million people alive today have a history of heart attack, chest pain or both.
Source: American Heart Association
Is CT Cardiac Calcium Scoring mainly for men?
No! Although coronary artery disease occurs later in women, it is still their leading cause of death. Unfortunately, 39% of women will die from their first heart attack, compared to 23% for men.
My cholesterol is under 200, should I be concerned?
CT Cardiac Calcium Scoring is a screening tool used for patients with risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD) but without clinical symptoms. Approximately 1/3 of patients who have a heart attack have a total cholesterol score under 200. Both tests are important tools in assessing coronary risk. The major risk factors for CAD, other than age, are:
- Abnormally high blood cholesterol levels
- Family history of heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Cigarette smoking
- Being overweight or obese
- Being physically inactive
I thought a treadmill was the best way to look for heart disease?
Treadmill testing is important in evaluating patients with known heart disease or symptoms suggestive of heart disease. Treadmill studies are designed to find areas of narrowing that reduce flow through a coronary artery. Since 2/3 of heart attacks are caused by plaque that does not obstruct flow until it ruptures and becomes inflamed, treadmill testing may be normal in patients with coronary artery disease but without signs or symptoms of a narrowed artery.
Is there any preparation for the exam?
Yes. Prior to the exam avoid caffeine and keep exercise to a minimum. This will keep your heart rate low, allowing for an accurate examination.
How is the test performed?
You will be asked to complete a brief questionnaire about risk factors. Next, you lie down on the CT scanner table, while the technologist places a few EKG leads on you. You will then be asked to hold your breath while images are taken in a matter of seconds. That’s it. The whole procedure takes about 10 minutes.
Based on the resulting pictures, a board-certified radiologist will calculate your score using state-of-the-art software, as well as analyze the images for other findings that are visible on the scan. We will send a report to your primary care provider.
Will I need a referral from my primary care provider?
Yes, because exam reports are required to be sent to a care provider for appropriate treatment, if needed. If you do not have a primary care provider, we can supply you a list of those in the area for your selection.
- Coronary Calcium Scores are Best for Guiding Statin Therapy
- National Heart and Lung Index on Coronary Calcium Scan
- Coronary Calcium as a Predictor of Coronary Events in Four Racial or Ethnic Groups
- Calcium Scores Best Predictor of Heart Attack Risk
This page is intended as an educational resource only. It is not a substitute for professional care. Please see your physician if you have any concerns about your own health.