Cardiac CT for Coronary Calcium Scoring
What is cardiac CT for calcium scoring? CT for calcium scoring is a simple, convenient test for the identification of coronary artery disease (CAD). This scan looks for calcium in the walls of the coronary arteries, the vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the body. The amount of calcium found on this scan helps identify your risk for CAD and heart attack. It also can help your doctor determine the most appropriate treatment for slowing the progression of coronary artery disease. CT for calcium scoring can be completed within 10 to 15 minutes, does not require the injection of contrast material and leaves no radiation in the body following examination.
- Who should be screened using CT for calcium scoring?
- How should you prepare for the procedure?
- How does the procedure work?
- How is the procedure performed?
- What will you experience during and after the procedure?
- What does your score mean?
- What are the limitations of Cardiac CT for Calcium Scoring?
- How can you get tested?
Your doctor may recommend this screening if you have some of the following risk factors for CAD.
- Abnormally high cholesterol levels
- A family history of heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Cigarette smoking
- Being overweight or obese
- Being physically inactive
- No special preparation is necessary. You may continue to take your usual medications but should avoid caffeine or smoking prior to the procedure.
- You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. You may or may not be given a gown to wear during the procedure.
- Metal objects including jewelry, eyeglasses, dentures, hearing aids and hairpins should be removed before the scan.
- Women should always inform the CT technologists and their physician if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.
How does the procedure work?
CT scanning works very much like other X-ray exams. With CT scanning, X-ray beams and electronic X-ray detectors rotate around you, measuring the amount of radiation being absorbed throughout your body. A special computer program processes this data to create images of your body. These images are then reassembled by computer software and a very detailed picture of your body is displayed on a monitor.
How is the procedure performed?
The technologist begins by positioning you on the CT examination table, usually lying flat on your back. Straps and pillows may be used to help you stay in the correct position and to help you hold still during the exam.
Electrodes will be attached to your chest and to an ECG machine that records the electrical activity of your heart.
The table will move through the scanner to determine the correct starting position. The table will move through again as the actual CT scanning is performed.
You may be asked to hold your breath for 20 to 30 seconds while images are recorded.
When the examination is complete, you will be asked to wait until the technologist verifies that the images can be accurately interpreted.
What will you experience during and after the procedure?
Most CT scans are painless, fast and easy. There may, however, be some discomfort from having to remain still for several minutes. Also, if you are claustrophobic, uncomfortable or have chronic pain, your doctor can prescribe a mild sedative to help relax you.
You will hear only slight buzzing, clicking and whirring sounds during the imaging process.
You will be alone in the exam room during the scan, but the technologist will be able to see, hear and speak with you at all times.
After the CT scan, you can return to your normal activities.
What does your score mean?
A cardiologist will analyze the images and send a report to your primary care doctor or referring physician. A negative scan shows no calcium within the coronary arteries and suggests that the chance of having a heart attack over the next two to five years is low. A positive scan means that CAD is present, and the amount of calcium present helps predict the likelihood of a heart attack. This is expressed as a calcium score and the different ranges can be seen below.
What are the limitations of Cardiac CT for Calcium Scoring?
This particular piece of equipment has a weight limit. Please check with your physician about any limitations.
If you are under the age of 50, CAD can still be present without calcium even if your calcium score is low.
Not all health insurance plans cover cardiac CT for calcium scoring. Please talk to your doctor if you have any questions about your insurance coverage.
A high heart rate may interfere with the test. If your heart rate is more than 90 beats per minute, your test may need to be rescheduled.
How can you get tested?
Calcium scoring is a screening, so it does not require a physician’s order. To schedule an appointment, please call 865.305.6970.