Calcium-score screening heart scan

The calcium-score screening heart scan is a test used to detect the amount of calcium deposits found in plaque in the arteries, the vessels that carry blood away from your heart. It uses a state-of-the-art type of X-ray called a CT scan to determine how much calcified plaque is in the heart's arteries before symptoms develop, which assist the doctor in evaluating your risk of future cardiovascular events. Those at increased risk include individuals with the following traits:

  • Family history of cardiovascular disease
  • Current or past smoker
  • High cholesterol level
  • High blood pressure
  • Overweight

It is important to consult a physician to determine how likely you are to get heart disease, and whether the calcium-score screening is appropriate for you.

When you schedule your appointment for a heart scan at a hospital, ask what special instructions you should follow. You may be asked to avoid caffeine and smoking before the test. This procedure is not recommended if you are pregnant.

What to expect during the procedure

  • Personnel at the hospital will help you complete a risk assessment questionnaire.
  • After changing into a hospital gown, the nurse will record key information such as blood pressure.
  • You will lie on a CT scanning table for the test.
  • Personnel will clean areas of your chest in order to place small sticky electrode patches, which charts your heart's electrical activity during the test.
  • Once the scan begins, you will feel the table move inside a donut-shaped scanner.
  • The images obtained during the scan are then analyzed by an advanced computer program, which is guided by a physician specialist trained in cardiovascular imaging, to determine the presence of calcification within the coronary arteries.

After the procedure

  • You may continue all normal activities and eat as usual after the test.
  • A calcium score is provided from the previously noted analytical program.
  • The results will be reviewed and examined by a team of cardiovascular specialists.
  • The team will evaluate the calcium score, along with other risk factor measurement to determine your risk for future coronary artery disease.
  • You and your physician will receive the full report outlining your risk assessment and follow-up recommendations.

Please ask your doctor if you have any questions about the calcium-score screening heart scan.