What is a Coronary Calcium Score (Heart Scan)?
A coronary calcium score (heart scan), also known as coronary calcium scan, coronary calcium test, or coronary artery calcium scan, is a quick, non-invasive, specialized X-ray test that provides pictures of your heart. It allows your doctor to detect the presence of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), which is one of the most common culprits behind heart attacks.
In CAD, the arteries get narrow or harden (calcify) due to a buildup of calcium-containing plaque. This plaque is primarily composed of fats, calcium deposits, and cholesterol, which are not good for your heart. If left untreated, the plaque can grow inside the arteries of the heart slowly over time and can eventually restrict or block the flow of blood to the muscles of the heart.
The coronary calcium test is one of the most effective tests in assessing heart attack risk. The results of the coronary calcium scan will indicate how much calcified plaque is present in your heart’s arteries, based on which your doctor will decide whether you need medication or lifestyle changes.
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Who should take a Coronary Calcium Score?
Your doctor will ask you to undergo a coronary calcium scan to decide whether you are at low, normal, or high risk for coronary calcification. Your doctor may recommend undergoing this test only if you have risk factors for CAD, as the test exposes you to radiation.
Some of the CAD risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Cigarette smoking
- Overweight or obesity
- Physical inactivity
How is a Coronary Calcium Score performed?
During the coronary calcium scan:
- Once you arrive at the center, the radiographer will ask you to take off your clothing, accessories, jewelry, etc., and wear a medical gown, to prevent any interference with the radiation.
- The radiographer will then ask you to lie on an exam table and will place electrocardiogram (ECG) electrodes on your chest to monitor your heart rate.
- Then you will have to lie still on the CT scanner table, which will move slowly through a doughnut-shaped machine.
- The CT scanner will be linked to the ECG and the recorded electric pulses from your heart will tell the CT scanner exactly when to take the scans.
- The CT scanner will move in a circle around your body and X-ray beam will pass through your body for small amounts of time. It will take multiple images of your heart that will be displayed on a monitor.
- During the scan, the radiographer will give you instructions such as ‘stay still’ and ‘hold your breath for 10 to 12 seconds’. You will have to avoid talking during the test, because any movement, including shivering, can alter the results.
How long does a Coronary Calcium Score take?
The scan itself takes approximately 20-30 seconds, but the entire test is usually completed within 10-15 minutes.
Is radiation involved in a Coronary Calcium Score?
Yes. Coronary Calcium scan is an imaging test, which involves a small amount of radiation to show pictures of the organs, tissues, and bones of the body.
How do I prepare for a Coronary Calcium Score?
No preparation or fasting is required. Just bring your LabFinder Order and Insurance Card to your appointment.
When will I receive my results?
Once the coronary calcium scan is completed, you will receive your coronary calcium score/results within 3-5 business days in your LabFinder portal.
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