A coronary calcium scoring scan, also known as a coronary calcium scan, is a non-invasive scan of the heart that can help your doctor detect and measure plaque in your arteries. This scan can help you and your doctor understand your risk for heart attack and heart disease before you even start to develop symptoms. This enables you and your doctor to develop a treatment or lifestyle plan that can extend your life.
In most cases, the appointment only takes 10 – 15 minutes to complete, and it is quite affordable for most patients. All you need is a referral from your doctor.
You may be a candidate for a calcium scoring scan if:
- You have a low to moderate risk for heart disease and your doctor wants to understand if you currently have heart disease.
- Your doctor is trying to determine the most appropriate treatment for your case.
Because a coronary calcium scoring scan exposes you to radiation, the scan is not recommended for people when the risk outweighs the potential benefit. The American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association set guidelines around people who should not receive a coronary calcium scoring scan, including:
- Men under 40 years old or women under 50 years old. Calcium typically is not detected in people under these ages.
- People who do not have a family history of heart attacks at a young age.
- People who have a high risk of developing heart disease. If you are a heavy smoker or have diabetes, this test is not likely to help guide your treatment plan.
- People who have already been diagnosed with heart disease or are experiencing symptoms. The test will not help your doctor better understand the disease progression.
- People who have had an abnormal coronary calcium scoring scan previously.
Because a coronary calcium scoring scan uses X-rays to obtain the images, it emits radiation. The radiation exposure is minimal and considered safe. Your doctor can help determine if the benefits outweigh the risk in your specific case.
Your radiology technologist will attach electrodes to your chest that connect to an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). An ECG or EKG will record the activity of your heart during the exam and helps to determine when to get the X-ray images – typically between heartbeats when the heart muscle is relaxed.
You will be asked to lie on a moveable table that slides into a CT scanner. While your body is in the scanner, you will be asked to periodically lie still and hold your breath while the pictures are taken. The test takes approximately 15 minutes.
A calcium scan can show if you have calcium deposits in your vessels, the amount of calcium that is in the vessels as well as which vessels are affected.
Your calcium score can range from 0 to more than 400.
- 0 – no identifiable disease
- 1 – 99: mild heart or vascular disease
- 100 – 299: moderate heart or vascular disease
- 300 or higher: severe heart or vascular disease
The higher your score, the more likely you are to experience a cardiac event in the near future. Even if you have a score below 10, you should take active steps to prevent the progression of your heart disease.
Your doctor will develop a treatment plan customized for you. Treatment may include:
- Lifestyle changes, such as exercising, eating a healthier diet or stopping smoking
- Prescription medications – medications called statins can help stabilize plaque in the vessels and prevent them from rupturing.
- Additional testing
A coronary calcium scoring scan is not covered by insurance – the test costs $99.
Take the next step!
Cardiac Calcium Scoring requires a physician referral.