Cardiac Calcium Scoring Information
Cardiac Calcium Scoring Information
What is Calcium Scoring?
Calcium Scoring uses a special X-ray called a computed tomography (CT) scan to check for the buildup of calcium on the walls of the arteries of the heart. Calcium in the arteries of the heart is an early warning sign of heart disease. The machine is able to 'score' your level of risk for heart disease. Calcium Scoring is an easy and painless way to find the calcium that will affect blood flow to the heart and may cause a heart attack.
Who Should have a Calcium Scoring Screening?
The goal of Calcium Scoring is to detect heart disease at an early stage before you have symptoms. The risk of heart disease is higher in men 45 years or older and in women 55 years and over.
Other important risk factors for heart disease include:
- A family history of heart disease
- Diabetes or a family history of diabetes
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol levels
- Cigarette smoking
- Being overweight or obese
- Being physically inactive
How does the test work?
The CT scanner is a large, square machine with a circular opening. The patient lies on their back on the exam table which moves into the center of the machine. The scanner does not surround the entire body and the patient's head remains outside the unit. Electrodes (small metal discs) will be attached to the chest and to a machine that records the electrical activity of the heart. This makes it possible to scan the heart when it is at rest. You may be asked to hold your breath for 20 to 30 seconds while the machine scans your heart. Pictures of your heart are taken at all angles as a part of the machine rotates around your body. The CT scan does expose the patient to a small amount of radiation, but the risks of heart disease are much greater than this limited exposure.
Who interprets the results?
Not all calcium deposits in the arteries mean that there is a blockage, and not all blocked arteries contain calcium. A doctor experienced in CT will analyze the heart images and provide a report of the findings. It is important to follow-up with your family physician if you have any of the risk factors for heart disease as there may be further testing needed to get a complete picture of your heart health.
What will the screening show?
The detailed heart images allow doctors to determine the amount of calcium in the heart. Calcium Scoring can suggest the presence of heart disease even when the arteries in the heart are less than 50% blocked. This is one of the few tests that con provide a warning of heart disease at this early stage.
A negative Calcium Scoring scan that shows no calcium in the arteries of the heart means that the chance of developing heart disease over the next two to five years is low. A positive test means that you have heart disease even if you have no symptom. The amount of calcium - or score - can mean that you may have a heart attack in the coming years. Based on screening results, your doctor can help find the best plan of action to manage the disease and reduce risks of heart attack. You may be put on medicine or asked to stop smoking, eat healthier foods and exercise. By following your doctor's instructions, you can lower the risk of a future heart attack.
How do I schedule this procedure?
You do not need to do anything special before the test. Women under the of 55 will need to have a pregnancy test done no longer than 2 weeks before the procedure. Patients may take their usual medications, but should avoid caffeine and smoking for four hours before the exam. At the time of the exam you will be asked t remove clothing and jewelry above the waist and put on a gown. If your heart rate is 90 beats a minute or higher, you may be given a drug to slow the rate in order to obtain accurate results.
If referred by a doctor, your insurance may or may not cover Calcium Scoring. You can call your insurance company or your doctor's office may be able to assist you.
For more information about Calcium Scoring, please talk to your doctor or call our Radiology Department at 402-375-7950.
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