Heart Screenings: Coronary Calcium Scan Testing
The Medical Center of Aurora offers coronary calcium scans, a simple, non-invasive and inexpensive diagnostic tool that provides physicians and patients with critical information about the potential of future heart complications.
Calcium (as well as fat and cholesterol) can form into plaque, causing buildup in the arteries. Known as coronary heart disease (CHD), this condition can lead to sudden heart attack. However, CHD can be detected early with a coronary calcium scan and treatment plans can be put into place.
Determining Cardiac Risk
Anyone can undergo a coronary calcium scan, but you should definitely consider this screening if you:
- Are a man over 45 years of age or a woman over 55
- Have a family history of heart disease
- Have high cholesterol or borderline high blood pressure
- Smoke or have an unhealthy lifestyle
- Have diabetes
- Are overweight, obese or are physically inactive
- Are taking statin medications or want to stop taking statin medications
Simple, Painless Screening
The coronary calcium test uses X-ray technology to capture images of the heart and surrounding arteries allowing our team to see calcium deposits, which appear as bright white spots on the scan.
Several small electrodes are attached to the chest and a technician captures images of the heart through a CT scanner. This procedure does not use contrast dye or needles.
The patient will receive an Agatston score depending on the amount of calcium that appears on the scan. A higher Agatston score indicates higher risk of developing CHD or having a future cardiac event. A higher Agatston score is not indicative of a cardiac problem, but it allows physicians to determine whether or not to recommend more extensive testing.
Coronary calcium scans are straightforward and minimally invasive, but there are several things you can do to make the procedure run smoothly:
- No caffeine or nicotine 12 hours prior to the test
- Do not fast prior to the test
- Wear loose, comfortable clothes
- Do not wear jewelry
- Take your regular medications the day of the procedure
What to Expect for Your Heart Screening
- The technologist details your procedure and answers any questions you have
- You will lie flat on your back with your arms positioned over your head
- Three monitoring wires are placed on your chest to synchronize the scan with your heart motion
- You will hold still and briefly hold your breath
- Images will be taken as you are moved through the scanner
- The painless scan will take approximately 10-15 minutes
- The technologist will be able to communicate with you throughout the entire procedure
After the Procedure
You can expect to learn the results of the procedure the same day it occurs. A member of our team will call with results and you will be mailed a report with pictures of your heart and an explanation of what your score means. This same report can be sent to your doctor as well, as requested.
Coronary calcium scans are not covered by all insurance plans. Please contact your insurance carrier for details. If your health insurance does not cover the procedure, you can expect to pay $79.
Want to Learn More?
This helpful documentary explores cutting edge diagnostic tests that are preventing heart problems from developing.