Ultrafast CT Screening of the Heart

CT Heart Screening

What is a CT Heart Screening?

The CT Heart Screening is a quick and simple exam that assesses your risk of heart attack by detecting and measuring the amount of calcium build-up (plaque) in your coronary arteries.

The exam allows the radiologist to determine whether a patient has a serious risk of significant narrowing of blood vessels to the heart. More importantly, it allows physicians to find hardened arteries early, allowing treatment with medication and lifestyle changes.

This is a screening that can precede more invasive exams such as a stress test and angiogram. The CT Heart Screening is considered to be one of the best available exams to predict the risk of heart attack in apparently healthy people.

Why should I get a CT Heart Screening?

The CT or CAT scanner acquires approximately 92 images of the heart. The quantity of calcium build-up in your arteries is then determined and you are given a score that falls under a certain category. This information, along with other indicators, can present an overall picture of your heart’s health. As a result, you and your physician can select the most appropriate care plan.

The CT Heart Screening is the only readily available, non-invasive, and sensitive screening exam for coronary artery disease. The exam is strongly recommended for patients with significant risk factors such as smoking history, high cholesterol, weight problems, or family history of heart disease.

What does my cardiac score mean?
  • Score 0 (Zero):  No identifiable atherosclerotic plaque (a negative examination).  Adherence to general guidelines on diet and exercise is stressed.
  • Score 1 to 10:  Minimal identifiable plaque.  Significant obtrusive coronary disease is unlikely.  Recommendations are to follow general guidelines on cardiovascular risk reduction.
  • Score 11 to 100:  Definite but mild plaque.  Risk factor modification is recommended, including daily aspirin prophylaxis and strict adherence to National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) guidelines.  Clinical follow-up is necessary.
  • Score 101 to 400:  Definite, moderate plaque.  Risk factor modification is recommended with non-invasive stress testing preparatory to an exercise program.  Daily aspirin and use of statin medication to reduce LDL cholesterol <100mg/dL is advised in conjunction with other risk factor modifications.  Clinical follow-up and further testing such as stress test, nuclear test, cardiac ultrasound or other studies should be considered.
  • Score over 400:  Significant plaque burden indicating a high likelihood of “significant” coronary stenosis.  Aggressive risk factor modification is recommended (including aspirin and statin medication) with non-invasive stress testing and possibly angiography.

**Further consultation with a physician is recommended for any total score above 0.

What is the preparation for a CT Heart Screening?

We recommend no caffeine, nicotine, or exercise the morning of your appointment. These small adjustments can help to keep your heart rate lower for the test. Increased heart rates may affect the imaging. If you have done any of these on the morning of your appointment, your technologist can still evaluate your heart rate to determine if it is within the limits needed for imaging.

What should I expect during the screening exam?

You will be lying flat on the CT scan table, which moves quickly through the CT scanner. You’ll need to remain still and hold your breath for a few seconds. In less than one minute, the CT scanner acquires a series of images of your heart.

What happens after my screening exam?

One of our board-certified radiologists will interrupt your images. A report of the results will be sent to your physician. It’s important to discuss any score above zero with your physician. Your physician will be able to interpret your score in the context of other essential factors such as age, gender, medical history, and other risk factors for heart disease.

Is this exam covered by insurance?  What is the cost?

CT Heart Screening may be covered by some insurance carriers. For insurance coverage, an order from your healthcare provider is required.  For uninsured or self-paying patients, the cost of CT Heart Screening is $107.

Note: CT Heart Screening is NOT for patients with heart bypass or stents.
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