Coronary Calcium Scoring

A non-invasive way of obtaining information about the presence, location and extent of calcified plaque in the arteries - the vessels that supply oxygenated blood to the heart.

Calcified plaque 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). 

 

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
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • cigarette smoking
  • overweight or obese
  • physical inactivity

What will I experience during my scan?

CT exams are generally painless and fast.  Due to the advanced equipment now used for this type of scanning, the amount of time that the patient needs to lie still for is significantly reduced.
 
When you enter the CT scanner room, special lines of light may be seen projected onto your body. This is nothing to be concerned about. They are used to ensure that you are properly positioned in advance of your scan.
 
You will hear slight buzzing, clicking and whirring sounds as the internal parts of the CT scanner, not usually visible to you, revolve around you during the imaging process.
 
You will be alone in the examination room during the CT scan, unless due to specific circumstances you require someone present.
 
The radiographer will always be able to see, hear and speak with you through a built-in intercom system.

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.

 
What do the results indicate?
 
Negative result -  shows no calcification within the coronary arteries. This suggests that CAD is absent or so minimal that it cannot be seen by this technique. The chance of having a heart attack over the next two to five years is very low under these circumstances.

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.