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CT Cardiac Calcium Score

Exam Explanation

A cardiac CT scan for coronary calcium is a non-invasive way of obtaining information about the presence, location and extent of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries—the vessels that supply oxygen-containing blood to the heart muscle. Calcified plaque results when there is a build-up of fat and other substances under the inner layer of the artery. This material can calcify which signals the presence of atherosclerosis (a disease of the vessel wall), also called coronary artery disease (CAD). Your doctor may want you to have a coronary calcium scan if it can help you and your doctor make decisions about how to lower your risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

Exam Preparation

You may be asked to not smoke or not eat or drink anything that has caffeine for a few hours before your test. Tell your physician or the technologist if there is any possibility that you are pregnant. Prior to the exam a technologist may speak with you on the phone to obtain necessary medical information and discuss instructions to be followed the day of the exam.

During the Exam

After you arrive for your appointment, you may need to remove some of your clothing and change into a gown. You will need to remove any jewelry that may be in the way, such as a necklace.

Small pads or patches called electrodes will be put on your chest. The EKG records the electrical activity of your heart on paper. It records when your heart is in the resting stage, which is the best time for the CT scan.

Once you are prepared for your exam, the technologist, who is specially trained in imaging procedures, will help position you on the table of the CT scanner. You will lie face up and the table will move into the large donut shaped scanner. While inside the scanner, you will be able to see your outside surroundings. The technologist will talk with you from the control room where they can see you at all times. It is very important to lie completely still. Periodically, the voice-activated component may speak to you, instructing you to hold your breath for a short period while pictures of your heart are taken. Most Cardiac CT examinations take about 15 minutes.