Heart Scan

1 What is a Heart Scan (Coronary Calcium Scan)?

A heart scan or coronary calcium scan is a specialized X-ray test that provides images of your heart that will make your doctor discover and measure calcium-containing plaque in the arteries.

Mostly, the plaque inside the arteries of your heart will become bigger and blocks the flow of blood of the muscles of the heart.

Your doctor will detect if you have coronary artery disease if he uses heart scan to measure the calcified plaque.

If the test is positive, your doctor may recommend medications along with lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of a heart attack.

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2 Reasons for Procedure

Here are the most common reasons to undergo a heart scan (coronary calcium scan). If a person has an average risk of heart disease, a heart scan will be useful.

Some of the factors that can affect the risk of having a heart disease are sex, age, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, tobacco use and family history.

It will be acceptable to perform coronary calcium heart scans for a person who has a calculated risk of five to 7.5 percent according to the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association guidelines which were published in 2013.

Heart scan can also be a motivational factor if a person has a moderate risk according to some studies.

3 Potential Risks

Generally, a heart scan (coronary calcium scan) is safe. Discuss first with your doctor about potential risks and if you had any exposure from other medical tests within that year.

Heart scans just like an MRI uses a type of X-ray technology, meaning you are exposed to radiation.

4 Preparing for your Procedure

Your doctor will ask you to avoid caffeine and smoking a few hours in order to prepare for the heart scan (coronary calcium scan).

When you go to the room, he will ask you to remove your clothes above the waist and to wear a gown.

You will have to remove all jewelry around your neck and chest area.

5 What to Expect

Here you can find out what to expect from your heart scan (coronary calcium scan).

A technician will attach electrodes to your chest. These sensors are attached to an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) that will record your activity during the exam and take X-ray images between heartbeats.

Your doctor will ask you to lie down on your back on a table that will slide into the tube-like CT scanner, but your head will be outside of the scanner.

To ensure that there will be clear images, you may be given medication either by pill or injection to slow your heart. You may ask your doctor for medication if you are nervous.

The technician will then ask you to remain calm and hold your breath for s few seconds while the X-ray images are being taken.

The machine will make a noise like a clicking sound for about ten to 15 minutes. You can go back to your normal activities after the procedure.

6 Procedure Results

A number called an Agatston score is given as the result of the heart scan (coronary calcium scan).

This number represents a combination of the density of the calcium and the information that reflects the total area of calcium deposits.

There is no calcium present in the heart and will have a low risk of having a heart attack if the score is zero. The higher the score is the higher the risk of attacks when calcium is present.

There is a high risk of heart attack or another heart disease if the score is 100 to 300. There is a very high risk of having a heart attack or other heart disease if the score is greater than 300.