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Coronary Calcium Scoring

A Heart or Cardiac CT scan is a form of the familiar Computed Tomography (CT or .CAT.) scan, which captures cross-sectional images of the heart at sub-second rates. This unique CT technology allows for the detection of small amounts of calcium in the coronary arteries.

CRL radiologists can measure the buildup of plaque, if any, and compare it to the standard for your age and gender. This test, along with other indicators, presents an overall picture of your heart health.

A curved multiplanar coronary CT angiogram reformat demonstrating a diseased right coronary artery. The white areas along the artery are calcium and are the basis of establishing a "calcium score."

Candidates for a Cardiac CT
This evaluation is most appropriate for men, age 35-70 and women 40-70 who have any of the following risk factors:

  • Family history of heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Overweight

This evaluation is not recommended for patients who fit the following criteria:

  • Pregnant
  • Known coronary artery disease (have had a heart attack, angioplasty/stent or bypass surgery)
  • Resting heart rate above 90-95 beats per minute (resting tachycardia)
  • Metallic objects in the heart (mechanical heart valves, pacemaker wires, stents, etc.)

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Exam Preparation

  • A Martha Jefferson representative will call you prior to your appointment to review health and insurance information.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine three hours prior to your exam.
  • Continue to take your usual medications as prescribed.
  • Wear loose fitting, metal-free clothing on your upper body.
  • Notify a staff member if you are nursing or if there is a chance you could be pregnant.
  • Please arrive 15 minutes early to verify your registration.

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During the Exam – What to Expect

  • Once you arrive, electrodes are attached to your chest to monitor your heart rhythm.
  • You then lie down on an imaging table, and the table moves into the CT scanner.
  • You will be asked to hold your breath for several seconds and CT pictures will be taken of your heart.
  • The entire CT scan takes approximately 15 minutes.

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Coronary CT angiogram demonstrating a normal right coronary artery. Note no evidence of calcium in the coronary arteries.

After the Exam – What to Expect

  • The Cardiac CT will provide you with a calcium score, which represents the amalgamation of extent and brightness of the calcium deposits seen. The higher the score, the more extensive the accumulation of plaque in your arteries. A normal score is 0 (no calcium seen). The report will also outline how you compare to other individuals of your age and gender, and whether you have any likelihood of obstructive coronary artery disease.
  • Scores may range from zero, representing no calcium observed, to more than 400, indicating the presence of significant calcium build-up.
  • CRL Radiology recommends sharing the results of your test with your physician to determine what, if any, follow-up steps need to be taken.

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Your calcium score can help you in a number of ways. A Cardiac CT can:

  • Detect the build-up of plaque earlier than any other technology (such as stress testing).
  • Help your physician develop the appropriate prevention strategy for you.
  • Reduce the need for other, more expensive and invasive tests.
  • Give you peace of mind.

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Things to Know Before You Schedule
We encourage all of our patients to work with their physician in incorporating the results of this test into their own preventive health care plan. However, a physician referral for this test is not necessary. At this time, some major health plans consider this a non-covered service.

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