The purpose of the CT calcium scoring exam is to understand your risk for coronary heart disease (CAD) so you can take preventive measures based on the results. CAD (heart attack or other cardiovascular event) is the number one cause of death among adults in the US.
Coronary arteries are the vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Over time, these arteries can collect a hard buildup called plaque, which is made of calcium, fat, and other substances that slowly narrow and even close the arteries. Dangerous or even fatal heart events can happen when these arteries close and cannot supply the heart with necessary blood.
CT calcium scoring uses advanced computer tomography (CT) technology to help radiologists detect plaque in the arteries of the heart which may indicate the presence of coronary artery disease (CAD). Since CT scans can easily detect calcium, this makes CT calcium scoring a useful tool in the evaluation of heart disease risk. It is an exam that is sometimes recommended for patients with high risk factors for CAD in order to catch the disease before the patient even has symptoms. Early detection of CAD may help improve your health and increase your chances for survival. Please refer to the Computed Tomography section for more details about CT scans and the associated benefits and risks.
Even if you have no symptoms, your doctor may recommend CT calcium scoring based on the presence of other heart disease risk factors. The major risk factors for CAD are:
If no calcification is seen on your CT calcium score, the test is “negative.” This means your risk for heart attack over the next 2 to 5 years is very low.
A “positive” test means that calcium has been detected in your coronary arteries by the scan. The calcium score is used to indicate the evidence of coronary artery disease (CAD) based on the CT image findings. Calcium scores are divided into the following categories:
After your CT calcium scoring is done, it is important to discuss the results with your health care provider to establish a health plan that is appropriate to your risk factors.
If you are, or think you are pregnant, be sure to notify your doctor or technologist before undergoing a CT scan. The amount of radiation received during a CT scan is unlikely to harm you or your baby. However, in general, CT scans are not recommended in pregnant women. In every case, the mother’s health must be considered as well. The benefit to the pregnant woman of having the CT scan to diagnose an illness may outweigh the small amount of risk to the baby from a low-dose CT scan.
The part of your body being scanned should also be considered. For example, brain CT exposes the unborn baby to little or no radiation. Even if the fetus is directly exposed to CT scan radiation (such as in CT scans of the abdomen or pelvis), the increased risk of developing cancer later in life is one in 1000. Some doctors may recommend another type of exam (ultrasound or MRI) to avoid exposing your baby to radiation.
The ACR states that current information suggests breastfeeding is safe after the use of intravenous contrast. Please discuss your breastfeeding options with your medical provider.
For more information on contrast, please see About CT Contrast.
To schedule a CT calcium scoring, please call our scheduling team at (512) 453-6100 or toll free at (800) 998-8214. A provider referral is required to make an appointment.
A radiologist, a physician specifically trained to interpret radiological examinations, will analyze the images and send a signed report to the provider who referred you to ARA. The physician will then share the results with you. Your report will also be available on the patient portal within 3 business days your exam.
ARA continues to follow CDC guidelines in requiring employees and patients to wear masks at our imaging centers for the safety of all.