In recent years, doctors have learned a lot about how to prevent heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases. In addition to a healthy diet and exercise, it has been determined that significant calcium deposits in the heart and arteries are a reliable way to predict heart problems.

A CT scan offers superior images when compared to a chest X-ray. The coronary CT calcium scan offers a way for your physician to diagnose coronary heart disease (hardening of the arteries) in its earliest stages, especially for people who show no symptoms of heart problems but have several risk factors. This test is used to determine if calcium deposits exist within your heart and coronary arteries. It is also known as a heart scan. The coronary CT calcium scan uses advanced technology to offer doctors information about coronary artery calcification.

What to expect during a coronary CT calcium scan

Preparing for your procedure

There is generally no preparation for this test, and it is usually performed on an outpatient basis. You will be asked to remove jewelry from around your neck. Please tell your physician about the medications you currently take, including vitamins and supplements. You should also tell your physician about your current or previous radiation exposure. This test involves only minimal exposure to radiation, but you should not have this test if you are pregnant.

During your procedure

You will be asked to lie on a long table that is then rolled into a tunnel-like scanner. The technician will give you instructions through speakers, including asking you to hold your breath for short periods of time. It’s important you stay completely still during your coronary CT calcium scan.

After your procedure

Most people can resume normal activities after this test, but your physician may give you specific instructions depending on your health conditions. Various cardiac experts will review the findings of your test, including the number and density of calcium deposits in your heart and arteries.

Your physician will receive a report of your calcium score to review with you. This number represents the amount of calcification present in your coronary arteries. The higher the number of deposits, the higher your likelihood is of developing coronary artery disease. Depending on your other risk factors for heart disease, you and your physician will discuss a variety of lifestyle changes that will reduce your chances of developing heart disease.

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