Cardiac Calcium Scoring
As part of a collaborative effort with the Staten Island Heart Institute, a joint venture, Richmond University Medical Center uses a special X-ray test called computed tomography (CT) to check for the buildup of calcium in plaque on the walls of the arteries of the heart (coronary arteries). This test checks for heart disease in an early stage and determines how severe it is. Cardiac calcium scoring is also called coronary artery calcium scoring.
The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart. Normally, the coronary arteries do not contain calcium. Calcium in the coronary arteries is a sign of coronary artery disease (CAD). The more plaque you have in the arteries of your heart, the higher your score, making your chance of having a heart attack greater.
If your doctor thinks that results from a cardiac calcium test could change your treatment for heart disease, your doctor may advise this test for you.
Why It’s Done
- Find out if you have CAD
- Find out how severe your heart disease is
- Sometimes predict if you will get symptoms of CAD
How It’s Done
A cardiac calcium scoring test is usually done by a radiology technologist. The pictures are usually interpreted by a radiologist. Other doctors, such as a family medicine doctor, internist, cardiologist or surgeon, may also review a cardiac calcium scoring test.
Small metal discs called electrodes will be put on your chest. Wires connect these to an EKG machine that records the electrical activity of your heart on paper. The EKG records when your heart is in the resting stage, which is the best time for the CT scans to be taken.
The table slides into the round opening of the scanner, a large, doughnut-shaped machine that moves around your body. The table will move a little every few seconds to take new pictures. You may hear clicking or buzzing sounds as the table and scanner move.
You may be asked to hold your breath for 20 to 30 seconds while about 200 pictures of your heart are taken. It is very important to hold completely still while the pictures are taken. A cardiac calcium scoring test takes about 30 minutes.
There is always a slight risk from being exposed to any radiation, including the low levels used for a CT scan.
What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
- Having a fast heart rate, such as atrial fibrillation
- Caffeine use
What to Think About
This test may be recommended for men age 45 and older and women age 55 and older who have a higher chance of heart disease. Younger adults may be tested if they have a very strong family history of heart disease.
If your cardiac calcium scoring shows that you have a high chance of having heart disease, you can take steps to lower your chance. Eat better, quit smoking, and get more exercise. These are the same steps your doctor would recommend after looking at your health history, your physical health and any lab tests, such as a cholesterol test. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, talk to your health professional about your treatment choices.
If you have an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) or a heart rate higher than 90 beats per minute, you may need to take a medicine before this test to slow your heart rate.
It is possible to have false-positive test results. This means that the test shows a high chance of blockage in the arteries of the heart when it is not true. People with a low chance of heart disease are most likely to have a false-positive test. This test is not advised for routine screening for coronary artery disease.
Cardiac calcium scoring may not be covered by all health insurance plans.
For an appointment, call 718-818-2145.