CT calcium scoring – what to expect

See what a health screening is like as a patient gets at CT calcium scoring exam at ARA Diagnostic Imaging. The video shows the process, which is very simple and takes about 5 minutes, and the host describes the exam and which people might consider getting it. CT calcium scoring screens for plaque in the coronary arteries, also known as coronary artery disease, or CAD. Known as “the silent killer,” CAD can cause heart attack and other coronary events.

Also see our detailed description of the exam.




Hey I’m Julia! I work with ARA Diagnostic Imaging and it so happens that I need a CT calcium scoring. So, I thought, why not do it on Facebook Live so you guys could see how easy it is?

Now the reason I’m here today for a calcium scoring is because I’m kind of in this group that needs to know a little more about my heart. I have a family history of heart disease, I’m age 59, I also have high cholesterol. So, I would like to see what’s going on in my heart and I want my doctor to see.

The thing about coronary artery disease is that it’s called the “silent killer” – silent killer meaning that you can just be going along and suddenly have a heart attack. I think we all have heard of people that this happened to.

So, the beauty of the screening is that it can see right through your body and just tell us if you have calcium buildup in your heart. This is Tabitha. She is CT lead here at ARA. She’s ace at this exam and many others and she is just going to help me out here to get this CT calcium scoring done.

Tabitha: All right! Well, you’re in a great place to have this exam done. You’re right, this is a really incredibly good screening tool to find the calcium You’re right, this is a really incredibly good screening tool to find the calcium that’s in the coronary arteries. The way it works is we don’t see the plaque very well but the calcium that’s in the plaque shows up super easy on the X-ray.

So, we’re just going to take a couple pictures through the heart area and measure if there’s any calcium. Your perfect score is going to be zero for this exam. Only time that’s ever a good thing. But if you have calcium, you’ll also be given a score and a percentile ranking that will tell you, what does that score mean for you because the number may be different if you’re a 78-year-old man versus a 29-year-old female.

So, when you get your ranking it kind of lets you know if you have calcium, how serious of a finding is that for you. So, you’ll discuss that with your doctor when you get the report. But the test itself only takes a couple of minutes. It’s super quick and easy. All you’re going to do is lay on the table. You’ll go in the donut hole as we take a couple of images.

Julia: I’m also wearing my regular clothing. As long as I don’t have any metal on in this area.

Tabitha: For the CT calcium score typically we don’t even need people to change clothes. If you wear regular street clothes that’s okay. We just prefer you not wear anything metal in the area of your heart so for women usually if you’re wearing a regular bra we would have you remove that but if you wear like a sports bra with no underwire and no snaps you can usually wear that.

For men button-up shirts are usually fine as long as they don’t have like a pearl snap. So yes wear your regular clothes.

For that exam all you have to do is lay on the table. Your arms will be raised over your head and then we’re going to use what’s called an EKG to monitor the heart rate during the procedure. If you lift your legs, I’ll put a pillow underneath.

So, this EKG allows us to take the picture in between the heartbeats. So, we can’t stop the heart from beating but we can take the picture at that moment in between the beats where it’s resting and not moving. So, I’m just going to take a couple of moments to just put these stickers on. That one might be kind of cold, huh?

Julia: And there’s a beautiful picture on the ceiling, I must say. An aquarium – so…

Tabitha: Keeps you distracted.

Julia: I like it.

Tabitha: Another cold one here.

All right so I might use a little bit of gel. Sometimes the leads just need a little gel to amplify the signal. And we even keep that warm. So, and we’ll just wipe that off with a tissue when we’re done.

Julia: No probs.

Tabitha: And then, sorry, I put a lot on there. All right. Much better. All right.

Julia: Ok, so, I’m ready, huh?

Tabitha: You’re ready!

Julia: Okay!

Tabitha:  Are you ready though?

Julia: I am ready.

Tabitha: Okay!

Julia: Let’s do this thing.

Tabitha: So just listen for the machine. It’s going to ask you to take in a breath and hold that breath.

Julia: Okay.

Tabitha: Then it will tell you when you can breathe.  Again, we’re doing one quick picture to set you up into the machine and then I’ll come back. We’re gonna put a small filter across the breast area. For women we use that breast filter to make sure we take out some of the X-rays that are harmful to the breast area. But it doesn’t interfere with the exam itself.

Julia: Okay I’m ready.

Tabitha: All right. All right, so again if we get any interference it should only be a few seconds. [Referring to CT interference with the video.]

Machine: Take a breath in. Hold your breath.

Machine: Breathe.

Tabitha: Okay.

Machine: Take a breath in. Hold your breath.

Machine: Breathe.

Tabitha: How you doing?

Julia: Doing great!

Tabitha: Well we just have that one more picture to do. I’m gonna put that little filter across your chest here. So, you’ll hear the machine – it’s kind of turning on as it starts spinning. It’ll move in one more time. You’re gonna take another set of images. This one takes a little bit longer but then we’ll be done.

Machine: Take a breath in. Hold your breath.

Machine: Breathe.

Tabitha: All right, Miss Julia. That’s it.

Julia: That’s it?

Tabitha: Yep.

Julia: it’s amazing. It took almost no time at all.

Tabitha: So quick and easy. All right Miss Julia.

Julia: I’m coming out now.

Tabitha: I’m gonna get the stickers off of you and I’ll wipe some of that gel off with a tissue. Just give me one moment. These ones didn’t have any gel so…

Julia: So that was super easy, it took no time and I really felt nothing at all. Absolutely painless, easy – just a little relaxing moment on this nice bed.

Tabitha: Kinda like going to the spa.

Julia: Kinda like going to the spa, yeah.

Tabitha: Yeah, tanning bed – takes three minutes.

Tabitha: I’m gonna grab this cushion from underneath you and then if you like I can give you a hand to sit up.

Julia: Give me a little hand here. Okay, wow! That was so easy.

Tabitha: Yep.

Julia: Thanks, Tabitha.

Tabitha: Yes ma’am!

Julia: So, I’m excited that I will be getting this information about my health. The exams are $75 here and it’s great if you can go through your health care provider so you’ll have someone to talk to about it and see if you’re the right person for it. And you can just get in touch with us and make an exam schedule and – I’m sorry – I’m a little nervous. It was – what I needed to say was, you need to call (512) 453-6100 or go to ausrad.com/scheduling and get started there. Thanks for being with us today and, oh, one more thing. This is fun. A week from now at 3:30 on March 2nd we’re gonna do another Facebook Live where we get my results. So, it’s like a big reveal to you guys and to me. So, we’ll hope for the best, right?

We’ll see you next week and thanks a bunch.

Tabitha: Thank you!

Please note: When talking to your health care provider about getting a CT calcium scoring, be sure and discuss any symptoms you may be having, including chest pain or pain in the arms, back neck, jaw, or stomach; shortness of breath; palpitations; nausea; and fatigue.

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