Coronary Calcium CT Scan

Heart/Cardiac Tests

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a disease caused by plaque in the arteries. Plaque is formed from cholesterol, calcium and fatty substances. Plaque formation and build-up narrows arteries and can lead to blood clots. Damage to the interior lining of arteries can accelerate the collection and build-up of plaque. Coronary artery disease is also called atherosclerosis. CAD can cause angina, heart attack, cardiac arrhythmias and lead to heart failure.

Around 370,000 Americans die every year from coronary artery disease. CAD does not discriminate between men and women. Family history of cardiac disease, age, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, tobacco use, lack of physical activity and unhealthy diet are some risk factors for developing CAD.

Since the presence of high amounts of coronary calcium is a marker of coronary artery disease, patients with other qualifying CAD risk factors may be recommended for a coronary calcium CT scan. A coronary calcium CT scan is also known as a cardiac CT for calcium scoring, a coronary artery calcium scoring or a coronary calcium scan. This cardiac screening is quick, painless and non-invasive.

A coronary calcium CT scan is an easy and effective way of obtaining accurate information regarding the presence of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries. The scan will reveal the extent of calcification and the location of calcium deposits within the arteries. The results of the scan will provide a “calcium score.” Dr. Alonso may recommend this test based on your personal risk factors and medical criteria.

There are really no special preparation requirements prior to a cardiac CT for calcium scoring. However, it is best if patients avoid caffeine consumption and tobacco use for about four hours before the scan. Patients should dress comfortably and exclude jewelry and other accessories with metal. It may be necessary to remove hearing aids, eyeglasses and certain dental work prior to the scan, as well.

During the coronary calcium CT scan, you will lie on a narrow table that slides into the scanning tunnel. The technician will attach electrodes to your chest. You will need to lie still and remain quite during the scan. The technician will instruct you to hold your breath for 15 to 20 seconds a number of times during the calcium scoring scan. While you are in the tunnel, an x-ray tube and electronic x-ray defectors will rotate around you. The scan will be complete in about five to ten minutes. After the scan you will be able to resume normal activities.
A skilled radiologist will examine and analyze the images produced from your scan. The radiologist will prepare an official report of the findings, including your coronary calcium score, and forward it to Dr. Alonso. After reviewing the information, he will discuss the results with you.