What is a CT Calcium Score Test 1 1

What is a CT-Calcium Score Test?

A coronary calcium score test is a non-invasive medical imaging test that uses a CT scan to measure the amount of calcified plaque in your coronary arteries. This scan measures your “calcium score, which helps your doctor calculate your risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD)-related events such as a heart attack or a stroke.

What does a calcium score test show that other tests do not?

The calcium score test shows the amount of coronary artery calcium that resides in the coronary artery plaque, which cannot be directly imaged non-invasively. In addition, the vessels of the heart are five times more likely than those of other organs to make plaque. So, if you want to get a good idea of whether or not you are a “plaque builder,” then a CT scan of the heart might predict other types of non-coronary diseases too.

How is plaque detected?

Arterial plaque is hard to measure non-invasively. Plaque takes up calcium, which CAN be detected and counted in a heart scan. The calcium literally sparkles on a CT scan and the specks of light can be counted. The amount of coronary artery calcium is a measure of coronary artery plaque. Coronary artery plaques can sit and grow slowly over time to produce an artery obstruction. This may lead to chest pressure or discomfort which occurs first with exertion. Plaques may also rupture suddenly, causing a blood clot to form which may totally obstruct a coronary artery – the cause of a heart attack.

What is the importance of the calcium score?

The greater the coronary calcium score, the larger the amount of plaque is in the artery wall, and the greater the risk of a heart attack. The calcium score is thus a good predictor of a heart attack.

Who will benefit from a calcium score?

Every person with a moderate risk of heart disease can benefit from a heart scan, but those with a low or high risk of heart disease may not. 

Generally, a heart scan is not recommended for the following people:

  • Men younger than age 40 and women younger than age 50, because few younger people have detectable calcium
  • People who have low risk and no family history of heart attacks at an early age; these people rarely have detectable calcium
  • People who already are known to be at high risk, because the heart scan is not likely to provide any additional information to guide treatment decisions
  • People who already have symptoms or a diagnosis of heart disease, because the heart scan will not help doctors better understand the disease’s progression or associated risks

What should patients expect about the scan?

Contrast dye is not required for the heart scan.

During the heart scan, you will lie on your back on a table that slowly moves your whole body, except for your head, into the CT scanner (a hollow tube). The technician stands behind a glass wall and directs you while he or she takes the pictures. Usually, the procedure takes 10–15 minutes. After the scan, you should be able to drive yourself home and continue your daily activities.

At the touch of a button, the machine produces a print out of your results with the score calculated for your doctor. The score is automated by a computer so there is a high rate of accuracy.

How much does a coronary calcium score test cost?

As with most technology, the cost of a coronary calcium score test (also known as a “heart scan” or the calcium score) is dropping, and doctors are more inclined to consider this useful diagnostic tool for women who may have a moderate risk for heart disease or whose heart disease risk is unclear. 

On average, a calcium score test costs about $150. The price may vary depending on your payment method (insurance or self-pay), and where you go for your exam. Between hospitals and free standing imaging centers, imaging centers are considered to be more affordable. 

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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