A cardiac CT scan for coronary calcium is a non-invasive way of obtaining information about the presence, location and extent of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries.
Plaque is a build-up of fat and other substances, including calcium, which can, over time, narrow the arteries or even close off blood flow to the heart. The result may be painful angina in the chest or a heart attack.
Because calcium is a marker of coronary artery disease, the amount of calcium detected on a cardiac CT scan is a helpful screening tool. The findings on cardiac CT are expressed as a calcium score and can help present an overall picture of your heart health.
What to Expect
Why is this test done?
Your doctor may order a coronary scan to help make decisions regarding your risk of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. You do not need this test if you are not at risk of heart disease.
How is this test done?
- You will need to remove jewelry and may be asked to wear a gown. Small pads called electrodes are put on your chest. These are connected to an EKG machine to measure the electrical activity of your heart.
- Then you will lay down on the table connected to the CT machine, which will slide into the opening. The scanner will move around your body, and the table will move every few seconds to get different angles.
- While the pictures of your heart are taken, you could be asked to hold your breath for a short amount of time (20-30 seconds).
Does this test hurt?
No, a coronary calcium scan is painless. However, some patients find laying in one position for a long time to be difficult.
How long does the test take?
A coronary calcium scan usually takes about half an hour.