Important: Patients who have had a stint placed are not able to have a cardiac CT for calcium scoring. If you have any questions, please contact our Outpatient Diagnostic Center at 423-857-2800 or 423-990-2440.
How is the HMG Cardiac CT different than other diagnostic centers?
HMG is the only diagnostic center that has the scan read by both a cardiologist and a radiologist. A cardiologist reads the test and looks in depth at the heart, while a radiologist also reviews it for any signs of issues with the surrounding areas captured in the images. When it comes to your health, we believe in being thorough, and extending opportunities. For more about this life saving procedure, check out Carrie’s story.
What is Cardiac CT for Calcium Scoring?
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 wall. It’s an excellent predictor of whether someone may be heading toward a future heart event.
The most dangerous calcium plaque begins as a tiny boil or pimple and forms as the result of LDL cholesterol moving into the wall of the artery where it attracts white blood cells or pus cells. The LDL movement is made worse by diabetes, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and smoking. The pus produces inflammation and may cause a high c-reactive protein. This tiny collection of pus and cholesterol ruptures into the artery, causing a blood clot – potentially causing a heart attack if the clot is large enough to block the artery.
Each rupture produces a small dot of calcium on the artery of the wall.
A Cardiac CT for Calcium Scoring is a quick, non-invasive Cardiac CT scan that can quickly identify the number of plaque ruptures an individual has had. An individual’s calcium score is based on the number of plaque ruptures, evidenced by calcium, revealed within the scan.
The goal of the scan
The goal of cardiac CT for calcium scoring is to determine the amount of calcium or plaque present – even for persons who do not have any symptoms. It is a screening that may be recommended by a physician for patients with risk factors for Coronary Artery Disease (CAD).
The major risk factors for CAD are:
- abnormally high blood cholesterol levels
- a family history of heart disease
- high-blood pressure
- cigarette smoking
- being overweight or obese
- being physically inactive
How should I prepare?
No special preparation is necessary. You may continue to take your usual medications, but should avoid caffeine and smoking for 4 hours prior to the exam.
You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing to your exam. You may be given a gown to wear during the procedure.
What is the exam like?
The entire procedure, including the actual CT scanning, is usually completed within 10 to 20 minutes. During the scan, you will be asked to hold your breath for a period of 20 to 30 seconds while the images are recorded. When the exam is complete, you will be asked to wait until the technologist verifies that the images are high enough quality for the best interpretation. After the exam, you can return to your normal activities. Learn more about CT scanning.
Who interprets the results? How do I get my results?
That’s the best part about having your scan done with HMG. The $69 fee includes interpretation of your results by BOTH a radiologist and a cardiologist. This means that while the cardiologist is looking at details of your heart, a radiologist is doing an “over-read,” looking for any possible incidental findings that might have been captured in your scan. Most heart scans offered by others within our area do not include this level of review.
As for your results, we can either send them directly to you or to your primary care provider.
What do the scores mean?
A negative cardiac CT scan shows no calcification within the coronary arteries. This suggests that CAD is minimal and that the chance of having a heart attack over the next two to five years is very low.
A positive test means that CAD is present, regardless of whether or not the patient is experiencing any symptoms. The amount of calcification – expressed as the calcium score – may help to predict the likelihood of a myocardial infarction (heart attack) in the coming years.