(Source: National Institutes of Health)
What is a heart scan (calcium score)?
A heart scan (also called a calcium score) is a computed tomography (CT) scan that detects the presence and extent of calcium deposits within the walls of the coronary arteries.
Why is a heart scan performed?
Calcium is one of the substances that make up plaque, a waxy substance that can build up in coronary arteries and, over time, cause those arteries to harden (atherosclerosis) or rupture. For this reason, the presence of calcium in the coronary arteries is viewed as an early sign of coronary artery disease.
A calcium score (heart scan) is the best procedure currently available to detect early evidence of coronary artery disease before any symptoms actually develop.
Who should have a heart scan?
Heart scans are typically performed in men over 40 and women over 50 who have risk factors for developing coronary artery disease, but no symptoms. These risk factors include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High cholesterol
- Cigarette smoking
- Family history of heart disease
How does a heart scan work?
A heart scan is a very simple test that only takes about 10 minutes. You will be asked to lie still in the CT scanner machine while it takes X-ray pictures of your heart.
What will the results tell me?
The pictures from the scan will tell your doctor whether you have calcification in your coronary arteries, an early sign of coronary artery disease. If calcification shows up, your doctor will talk to you about taking steps to prevent a heart attack or other heart problems.
For more information about Methodist DeBakey Cardiology Associates or to make an appointment, please call us at 713-441-1100 or 888-361-4375, or contact us online.