ct scans that detect heart disease

CT Scans for Heart Disease

Computed tomography, commonly known as a CT scan, combines multiple X-ray images with the aid of a computer to produce cross-sectional views of the body. Cardiac CT is a heart-imaging test that uses CT technology with or without intravenous (IV) contrast dye to visualize the heart’s anatomy, circulation, and major vessels (which includes the aorta, pulmonary veins, and arteries). 

There are several types of CT scans used in the diagnosis of heart disease, including:

Calcium-Score CT Test

This test uses a CT scan to take an image the heart, which looks for calcium deposits within the coronary arteries. State-of-the-art computerized tomography methods, such as this one, are the most effective way to detect early coronary calcification from atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), before symptoms develop. The more coronary calcium you have, the greater your risk of a heart attack. The calcium-score screening heart scan takes only a few minutes to perform and does not require injection of intravenous iodine.

Coronary CT Angiography (CTA)

A CT coronary angiography is used to determine whether symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath are related to a coronary problem, and whether those symptoms can be treated with medicine, with non-invasive techniques, or with surgery. High-resolution, 3-dimensional pictures of the moving heart and great vessels are produced using a coronary CTA to determine if either fatty or calcium deposits (plaques) have built up in the coronary arteries.

Before the test, an iodine-containing contrast dye is injected into an IV in the patient’s arm to improve the quality of the images. A medication that slows or stabilizes the patient’s heart rate may also be given through the IV to improve the imaging results.

During the test, which usually takes about 10 minutes, X-rays pass through the body and are picked up by special detectors in the scanner. Newer scanners produce clearer final images with less exposure to radiation than older models.

Total Body CT Scan

The total body CT scan, or TBCT, is a diagnostic technique that uses computed tomography to help identify potential problems or diseases before symptoms even appear.

The TBCT scan — which takes about 15 minutes to perform — analyzes three major areas of the body: the lungs, the heart, and the abdomen/pelvis.

The scan can detect aortic aneurysms and calcium deposits within the coronary arteries. However, the presence of calcium deposits in the coronary arteries does not necessarily mean that a severe health threat exists. For example, calcium deposits are often found in older people as a result of their age. In addition, the CT scan cannot give a precise location of the diseased portion of the artery. 

Risks of a CT Scan

Heart scans use X-ray technology, which exposes you to radiation. The amount of exposure is generally considered safe — about the same amount of radiation you’re naturally exposed to in a year. However, radiation is not recommended for those who may be pregnant. Allergies to contrast dyes do also sometimes occur. Talk to your doctor and radiology technician prior to your scan with any additional questions or concerns.

Are These Tests Covered by Insurance?

In many cases, the calcium-score screening heart scan, coronary CTA, and total body CT scan are NOT covered by most insurance companies or Medicare. These tests are not typically covered because they are considered screening exams. Therefore, you will likely be responsible for paying for all costs associated with the exam and may be required to pay these fees at the time of the exam. If they are covered, you will likely be asked to provide prior authorization from your primary care doctor. Please check with your insurance provider to determine the services that are covered and ask your health care provider about the terms of payment. 

A CT scan cost can vary based on a number of factors. Different clinics quote different prices and you may have had experience paying different amounts for this type of scan in the past. Some patients find that the cost of CT scans out-of-pocket can sometimes be even cheaper than using insurance. This is especially true if you are uninsured or if your insurance will not cover the price of your scan (underinsured). A CT scan provides detailed pictures of your internal organs, muscles, and bones. The price of a CT scan can vary by thousands of dollars, so it’s important to know if your insurance will cover the cost of a CT scan, or if you should look at other methods of payment. With locations, timeframe, and payment methods all being important and sometimes hard to distinguish variables, it is difficult to know how much a CT scan actually costs. Thankfully, using Medmo makes all the difference when it comes to booking quality, affordable CT scans, and seeing the cost upfront. 

We offer competitive rates on a variety of medical imaging – including Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), CT scans, ultrasounds, mammograms, and x-rays – allowing you to save and book scans at accredited centers near you. For patients who don’t have insurance or have high premiums and deductibles, one of the featured services we offer to help save you money is our self-pay CT scan. 

To book a scan, visit us at Medmo.com. Medmo helps people schedule radiology imaging tests – such as MRI, CT scans, PET, and more – at nearby accredited centers and identify the payment solution that works best for them.

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