CT Calcium Score
Meet Anne, Tucson nurse
Anne has a family history of heart disease. As a registered nurse and an avid runner, she wanted to stay on top of her health. Her doctor recommended she get a CT Calcium Scoring test in Tucson, which evaluates for heart disease in its earliest stages. A CT Calcium Scoring test is easy and painless and gave Anne the peace of mind she needed to maintain her active lifestyle.
CT Calcium Scoring is used to detect coronary artery disease (CAD) at an early stage in patients who have risk factors for CAD but no clinical symptoms. CT Calcium Scoring calculates the amount of calcium in the coronary arteries—the vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Over time, calcium build-up can narrow the arteries or even close off blood flow to the heart, which can result in chest pain or a heart attack.
The procedure is usually performed in men age 45 or older and women age 55 or older. Besides age, other risk factors for CAD include:
• Family history of heart disease
• High blood pressure (hypertension)
• High blood cholesterol levels
• History of cigarette smoking
• Being overweight or obese
• Being physically inactive
CT Calcium Scoring is a convenient and non-invasive way of evaluating the coronary arteries. More than half of all heart attacks occur when there is less than 50 percent narrowing of the coronary arteries. This level of narrowing cannot be reliably detected on standard cardiac tests, but CT Calcium Scoring can suggest the presence of CAD even when there is less than 50 percent narrowing. However, not all calcium deposits in the coronary arteries produce a blockage, and not all blocked arteries contain calcium. In addition, CT Calcium Scoring cannot detect the earliest form of coronary artery disease (soft plaque) since it usually does not contain calcium deposits.
CT Calcium Scoring is not routinely covered by most health insurance plans and may be available only on a self-pay basis. If an abnormality is detected that requires further imaging tests or intervention, these additional procedures are usually covered by most health insurance plans.
No special preparations are necessary.
After you arrive for your appointment, you will be escorted to a procedure room, where you will be asked to change into a patient gown. You should remove all jewelry and other removable items such as glasses, dentures, and hearing aids. Women should always inform their technologist if there is any possibility of pregnancy.
During the exam you will lie on a table that moves into the doughnut-shaped scanner. Electrodes (small metal discs) will be attached to your chest and to an electrocardiograph (ECG) machine, which makes it possible to obtain the CT images when the heart is not actively contracting. Your technologist will watch you through an observation window and will be able to communicate with you at all times. CT scans are non-invasive and painless, though you will hear humming, buzzing, or clicking sounds as the CT machine moves to position you. It is very important to follow all instructions and remain still during scanning in order to obtain clear images. The scan is usually completed within 10 minutes. After the exam, you can return to your normal activities.
For your safety and the protection of others, we do not allow anybody except patients in our exam rooms.
After your study, the images will be evaluated by one of our board-certified radiologists with expertise in cardiac imaging. A final report will be sent to your doctor or healthcare provider, who can then discuss the results with you in detail.