CT Calcium Score
What is Cardiac CT for Calcium Scoring?
Computed tomography, more commonly known as a CT or CAT scan, is a diagnostic medical test that, like traditional x-rays, produces multiple images or pictures of the inside of the body.
The cross-sectional images generated during a CT scan can be reformatted in multiple planes, and can even generate three-dimensional images. These images can be viewed on a computer monitor, printed on film or transferred to a CD or DVD. CT images of internal organs, bones, soft tissue and blood vessels typically provide greater detail than traditional x-rays, particularly of soft tissues and blood vessels.
Common uses of the procedure
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
Benefits vs. risks
- Cardiac CT for calcium scoring is a convenient and noninvasive way of evaluating whether you may be at increased risk for a heart attack
- The exam takes little time, causes no pain, and does not require injection of contrast material.
- No radiation remains in a patient's body after a CT examination.
- X-rays used in CT scans should have no immediate side effects.
- There is always a slight chance of cancer from excessive exposure to radiation. However, the benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk.
- The effective radiation dose for this procedure varies.
- Women should always inform their physician and x-ray or CT technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.
- CT scanning is, in general, not recommended for pregnant women unless medically necessary because of potential risk to the baby in the womb.
- A high calcium score may sometimes be followed by other diagnostic tests for heart disease, which may or may not provide results with clinical value and can be associated with side effects.