Coronary Calcium Scan
Heart Disease and Heart Attacks
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death of both men and women in the U.S.
- Most people who suffer heart attacks have only average or slightly elevated cholesterol.
- Even in people with cholesterol levels as low as 180, heart attack is still the leading cause of death.
- Calcification in the heart's arteries is the earliest indicator of a buildup of plaque in the walls of these arteries and a sign of potential coronary artery disease.
- Many people with plaque or calcium deposits clogging their heart's blood vessels do not have any symptoms or warning signs that they may be in danger of having a heart attack.
Diagnosing Heart Disease at Its Earliest Stages
Cedars-Sinai created the SHAPE Program to help prevent heart attacks by detecting heart disease at its earliest stages. A coronary calcium scan performed using our 64-slice dual-source CT scanner can diagnose coronary artery disease at an early stage by taking precise pictures of the heart. Blocked or clogged blood arteries can be detected without the need of surgery or the injection of tracking fluids.
A coronary calcium scan produces a calcium score that indicates the patient's level of calcium deposits. After taking into account such factors as age, gender and cardiac risk factors, our cardiac imaging specialists use the calcium score as a strong measure of the risk for coronary artery disease.
A physician's referral is not required before receiving this scan, but you do need to provide the name of your physician. The results of your scan will be sent to your physician who will communicate the results to you. The physician you designate should be one you have seen within the last two years.
Left: A coronary calcium scan showing calcified plaque in one of the major coronary arteries (arrow). The white part of the image near the arrow is plaque. The white around the outside of the image forming a rough circle is bone. Right: A normal coronary calcium scan with no white-appearing plaque. The heart is the light gray mass in the middle of the image. The spine is the white object at the bottom left of the image.
Should You Have a Coronary Calcium Scan?
It is recommended that women older than 55 and men older than 45 have this test, as well as patients with these risk factors:
- Family history of heart disease
- High cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
- High-stress lifestyle
- No regular exercise program
A coronary calcium scan takes only 10 minutes and is painless. While the patient lies on an exam table, three electrocardiograph leads are placed on the chest to synchronize the scan with the motion of the heart. A series of pictures is taken, involving only a small amount of radiation. A blood sample is also taken to determine the cholesterol level at the time of the test.
A specialist in cardiac imaging explains preliminary results of the scan at the end of the test. A final written report is later sent to the patient and their physician. Referral arrangements can be made for patients who do not have a physician.