Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring

Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring uses a CT (Computed Tomography) scan to screen for atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease (CAD) caused by calcified plaque in the coronary arteries. Our radiologists use the scans to obtain information about the presence, location, and extent of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries. Because calcium is a marker of coronary artery disease (CAD), the amount of calcium detected on a cardiac CT scan is a helpful prognostic tool. The findings on cardiac CT are expressed as a calcium score. Calcium scoring is an important screening tool for better understanding a patient’s risk of heart disease.

A cardiac CT scan for coronary calcium is a non-invasive way of obtaining information about calcified plaque in the coronary arteries—the vessels that supply oxygen-containing blood to the heart muscle. Calcified plaque results when there is a build-up of fat and other substances under the inner layer of the artery. This material can calcify which signals the presence of atherosclerosis, a disease of the vessel wall, also called coronary artery disease (CAD). People with this disease have an increased risk for heart attacks. In addition, over time, progression of plaque build-up can narrow the arteries or even close off blood flow to the heart. The result may be chest pain, sometimes called “angina,” or a heart attack.

The major risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD) are:

  • High blood cholesterol levels
  • Family history of heart attacks
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity

How Should I Prepare for Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring?

No special preparation is necessary in advance of a cardiac CT examination. You should continue to take your usual medications, but should avoid caffeine and smoking for four hours prior to the exam.
You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing to your exam. You may need to wear a gown during the procedure.

Metal objects, including jewelry, eyeglasses, dentures and hairpins, may affect the images. Leave them at home or remove them prior to your exam. You may also be asked to remove hearing aids and removable dental work. Women will be asked to remove bras containing metal underwire. You may be asked to remove any piercings, if possible.

Women should always inform their physician and the Technologist if there is any possibility that they may be pregnant.

What Will I Experience During and After the Exam?

This exam is painless and relatively fast. Though the scan is painless, you may have some discomfort from remaining still for several minutes or from placement of an IV. If you have a hard time staying still, are very nervous, anxious or in pain, you may find a CT exam stressful. The technologist or nurse, under the direction of a doctor, may offer you some medication to help you tolerate the exam.

When you enter the CT scanner, you may see special light lines projected onto your body. These lines are used to ensure that you are properly positioned. With modern CT scanners, you may hear slight buzzing, clicking and whirring sounds. These occur as the CT scanner’s internal parts, not usually visible to you, revolve around you during the imaging process.

You will be alone in the exam room during the exam. However, the technologist will always be able to see, hear and speak with you through a built-in intercom system. After your exam, you can return to your normal activities.

How are the Exam Results Interpreted?

Our radiologist will send an official report to the doctor who prescribed the exam.

A negative scan for calcium scoring shows no calcification within the coronary arteries. This suggests that CAD is absent or so minimal it cannot be seen by this technique. The chance of having a heart attack over the next two to five years is very low under these circumstances.

A positive scan means that CAD is present, regardless of whether or not the patient is experiencing any symptoms. The amount of calcification—expressed as the calcium score—may help to predict the likelihood of a myocardial infarction (heart attack) in the coming years. The score helps your medical doctor or cardiologist decide whether you may need to take preventive medicine or undertake other measures, such as diet and exercise to lower the risk of heart attack.

Your referring physician will determine if follow-up exams are necessary. Sometimes a follow-up exam is done because a potential abnormality needs further evaluation with additional views or a special imaging technique. A follow-up exam may also be done to see if there has been any change in an abnormality over time. Follow-up exams are sometimes the best way to see if treatment is working or if an abnormality is stable or has changed.

 

 

 

What are the Risks and Benefits of Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring?

  • Cardiac CT for calcium scoring is a convenient and noninvasive way of evaluating whether you may be at increased risk for a heart attack.
  • The exam takes little time, causes no pain, and does not require injection of contrast material.
  • No radiation remains in a patient’s body after a CT examination.
  • X-rays used in CT scans should have no immediate side effects.
  • The benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk of minimal radiation exposure.
  • CT scanning is, in general, not recommended for pregnant women unless medically necessary because of potential risk to the unborn baby..
  • A high calcium score may sometimes be followed by other diagnostic tests for heart disease, which may or may not provide results with clinical value and can be associated with side effects.

 

If you have any additional questions regarding your exam,
please call 203.337.XRAY (9729).

If you would like to schedule an appointment, click here.

Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring is available at the following
Advanced Radiology locations:

Shelton – 4 Corporate Drive, Suite 182
Stamford1259 East Main Street
Trumbull – 15 Corporate Drive

 

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