About Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring
Coronary artery calcium scoring, also known as a Heartscreen CT, is a specialized type of CT scan.
During this heart screening CT scan, the patient’s heart rate is monitored while the CT scanner takes rapid images of the heart. Specialized software then uses the two pieces of information to construct high resolution image slices through the heart to view the coronary arteries.
The scans will show whether or not there is any calcification in the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. The presence of calcium in the coronary arteries is a reliable indicator of coronary artery disease. If untreated, coronary artery disease can progress to artery blockage and possibly to a heart attack.
The data from the exam is analyzed by a radiologist using a specialized computer program that calculates the total amount of calcium present in the arteries. The program will give a comparison of where the patients’ coronary calcium level is relative to people of the same gender and age group. This information is then compiled into a report, which will be sent to you and your doctor.
The coronary artery calcium score is a powerful predictor of future heart attack risk. If you can say yes to two or more of the risk factors for heart disease, you may benefit from the information provided by this screening exam. You and your physician can make better decisions regarding your health and lifestyle modifications to help reduce your risk of developing significant coronary artery disease. The test result can be a powerful motivator for change and can help guide you and your physician in selecting the most appropriate action.
Risks Involved in Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring
There is the risk of x-ray exposure; however, it is well below the level that generally causes adverse affects.
Scheduling, Insurance and Preparation
Contact your personal physician for a referral for this exam. Then call 720-493-3700 to schedule.
Coronary artery calcium scoring is not usually covered by insurance. Some insurance plans may cover this exam, but only if your doctor orders it. Check with your insurance company to be sure. If your insurance company will cover the exam, please bring your insurance card with you.
Conditions to Let Us Know About
In advance of your exam, let your scheduler or technologist know if any of the following circumstances apply to you:
- Irregular heart rate (arrhythmia)
- Rapid heart rate, also called tachycardia (resting heart rate higher than 90 beats per minute)
- Previous heart surgery
- Inability to hold your breath for 30 seconds
- Inability to raise both hands above your head
- Currently pregnant
If you have had a previous heartscreen CT at an Invision Sally Jobe facility, please let the imaging center staff know so they may obtain the results to compare to the study you are having.
Following are the general preparation guidelines for a coronary artery calcium scoring CT. You may receive additional or differing guidelines based on your specific situation. Please contact us at 720-493-3700 if you have any questions.
- Do not drink any caffeinated beverages for at least 4 hours prior to the exam.
- Do not smoke or use smokeless tobacco products for at least 4 hours prior to the exam.
- Do not take any stimulant drugs for at least 4 hours prior to the exam.
- Take any prescription drugs that you take on a routine basis.
What to Expect
During the Exam
Here is generally what will happen during a coronary artery calcium scoring CT:
- A technologist will ask you some safety questions.
- You will remove all metal and metallic objects, such as eyeglasses, belts, hair accessories and jewelry. You will change into a gown. You may use a secure locker for your personal items during your exam.
- You will go to the exam room. The technologist will help position you on your back on the scanner table. He or she will place small stickers on your chest to monitor your heart rate.
- During the scan, which lasts about 15 minutes, you will hear normal whirring and mechanical noises as the CT scanner rotates around your body. You will be asked to hold your breath for about 30 seconds. It is extremely important not to move any part of your body during the scan to avoid blurring the images.
- You will change back into your clothes.
The technologist will not stay in the room during the scan, but you can speak with him or her throughout the exam by intercom.
After the Exam
You can return to your normal activities immediately after your exam.
A board-certified radiologist experienced in the interpretation of coronary artery calcium scoring CTs will analyze the data and results from your exam. The results will be reported to your physician. Your physician will pass the results onto you.
During the exam, our radiologists and technologists will be happy to answer questions about the exam itself; however, they will not immediately provide you with the results of your exam.