Calcium scoring is a CT screening exam with a low radiation dose for asymptomatic patients. Also called coronary calcium scans, this test assesses the extent of calcified plaque on the walls of the arteries that supply blood to your heart. Any plaque is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease, which kills more than 500,000 Americans annually. Completely noninvasive, this procedure does not use needles or injections. In about 15 minutes we use this painless procedure to detect plaque and determine if you are at risk of coronary artery disease. Your radiologist will evaluate your CT images to determine your calcium score. The score measures the extent of calcified coronary artery plaque, and provides an indirect assessment of risk. Calcium scoring is presently not covered by insurance, so please contact us for information about cost and payment. We still need a prescription from your physician to provide you with this service.
Who should consider calcium scoring?
More than half of those who die from some form of coronary artery disease every year show no previous symptoms, but medical professionals estimate 85 percent of the cases of this disease may be stopped or prevented with early diagnosis and treatment. If you are a man older than 45 or woman older than 50 (or past menopause); your family has a history of coronary artery disease; you smoke or live/work with second-hand smoke; live an inactive lifestyle; have high cholesterol or blood pressure (hypertension); or if your physician diagnoses you as overweight, you are at risk. If you have three or more of these early warning signs, calcium scoring may offer you the opportunity to address stress on your heart before noticeable problems arise.
Preparing for calcium scoring
Calcium scoring requires minimal preparation for patients. Continue your regular medications, but avoid caffeine and nicotine prior to your test. Please wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes that have no metal (underwire, hairpins, etc.) in them. Inform your technologist if there is a chance you could be pregnant.
During calcium scoring
For your calcium scoring exam, you simply lie on your back on a CT table, and a technologist attaches a few electrodes to your chest so an EKG may measure your heart’s electrical activity. This allows our leading-edge technology to acquire images when your heart is not actively contracting.
After calcium scoring
Immediately following the procedure, you are free to resume normal activity. You may receive a preliminary report of your scoring results before you leave your appointment, though the technologist and radiologist will collaborate to complete a full report subsequently. They then send this to your physician for you to discuss at a follow-up appointment.
Understanding your score
- Score 0: With no evidence of plaque, your risk of heart attack remains very low, and you have less than a 5 percent chance of having coronary artery disease.
- Score 1-10: Your risk of heart attack is still low, with less than a 10 percent chance that you have coronary artery disease. This is a sign, however, that you should talk to your doctor about diet, exercise and possible other lifestyle modifications.
- Score 11-100: You stand a moderate risk of having a heart attack, likely with mild artery hardening. As you do have plaque in your arteries, you have coronary artery disease. Talk to your physician about a plan to reduce your risks of heart attack and other complications.
- Score 101-400: With plaque present and hardened arteries, plaque may be blocking or may soon block an artery. You have coronary artery disease and your risk of heart attack is moderate to high. Your physician will likely recommend more tests and lifestyle adjustments.
- Score higher than 400: Plaque is 90 percent likely to be blocking an artery, and you have coronary artery disease. Your risk for heart attack is high, and your physician will recommend additional testing as well as lifestyle changes to prevent heart failure.