What is Cardiac Calcium Scoring?
Cardiac Calcium Scoring detects the build up of plaque in blood vessels. Plaque, an accumulation of fat, calcium and other substances, can build up over time and cause a narrowing or blockage of the arteries. This build up causes heart disease and can even cause a heart attack. The non-invasive Cardiac Calcium Scoring test is done using a CT (Computed Tomography) scan. It looks at the heart and evaluates a patient’s risk for developing coronary artery disease (CAD) by measuring the amount of plaque in the coronary arteries. A Cardiac Calcium Scoring exam is often a better indicator of coronary events than a cholesterol screening or other tests. The Cardiac Calcium Scoring exam is also sometimes called coronary artery calcium (CAC) scoring, a heart scan or a calcium score.
Who Does the Test?
A Rhode Island Medical Imaging (RIMI) CT technologist will perform the exam. A RIMI radiologist with subspecialty fellowship training in Thoracic and Cardiac Imaging will read and evaluate the test’s results.
After changing into a gown, a RIMI technologist will explain the CT scan procedure to the patient. Lying face up on the CT table the patient will have a few EKG electrodes placed on their chest to monitor heart rate. The exam is performed without IV contrast. The CT table will move slowly and images will be taken. Patients may be asked to hold their breath at times and to lie as still as possible. Even though the technologist will be in an adjacent room, they will be able to see you through a window and speak with you as well. The entire test typically takes less than 10-15 minutes.
Your calcium score directly corresponds to your likelihood of having heart disease or a heart attack. The lower your calcium score and percentile rank, the less likely you are to experience a cardiac event. The calcium score itself, also known as an Agatston score, is based on the amount of plaque found via the CT scan. This number is then turned into a percentage
What the Numbers Mean
The Cardiac Calcium Scoring test helps inform your physician what preventative or corrective actions are advised based on the results. New guidelines suggest that if your calcium score is zero, treatment with statin therapy may be withheld or delayed, except those with specific risk factors such as smoking, diabetes or strong family history. Talk to your doctor for more information.