What is Coronary Calcium Scoring
Calcified plaque is a build-up of fat and other substances under the inner layer of the artery. This material can calcify along the vessel wall and lead to the more serious condition of coronary artery disease (CAD). People with this disease have an increased risk of heart attacks. Over time, CAD can narrow the arteries or even close off blood flow to the heart. The result of this may be chest pain, sometimes called "angina," or something as serious as a heart attack.
As calcium is a marker of CAD, the amount of calcium detected on a cardiac CT scan is a helpful tool for diagnosing patients at higher risk of developing the condition. The findings of a cardiac CT scan are expressed as a calcium score, also known as coronary artery calcium scoring.
When might a coronary calcium scan be recommended?
The goal of cardiac CT scan for calcium scoring is to determine if CAD is present and to what extent, even if there are no symptoms. It is a screening study that may be recommended by a physician for patients with risk factors for CAD but no clinical symptoms.
The major risk factors for CAD are:
- high blood cholesterol levels
- family history of heart attacks
- high blood pressure
- cigarette smoking
- overweight or obese
- physical inactivity
- Do not drink alcohol or caffeine for 12 hours before the test.
- Take all your routine medication until time of test.
- On day of test arrive 30 minutes ahead of scheduled time.
- Bring a list of any allergies and current medications.
- Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing.
- Remove metal objects such as jewellery, glasses, dentures, hairpins, underwire bras and piercings.
What will I experience during my scan?
Who interprets the results and how do I receive them?
A Consultant Radiologist will analyse the images and send an official report to your referring physician, who will discuss the results with you.
Positive result - means that CAD is present, regardless of whether or not you are 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 and helps the medical doctor or cardiologist decide whether you may need to take preventitive medicine or undertake lifestyle changes to your diet and exercise regime to lower the risk of heart attack.
Follow-up examinations may be necessary, and your doctor will explain the reason why. Sometimes a follow-up examination is carried out because a suspicious or questionable finding needs clarification with the advice of another physician or a special imaging technique. It may also be necessary for monitoring any abnormality over a period of time to determine if it is stable or has changed.