Heart Scan

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What Are the Risk Factors for Heart Disease?

  • Family History of Heart Disease
  • Smoking
  • High Cholesterol
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Overweight
  • Diabetes
  • Sedentary Lifestyle


What is a Heart Scan or Coronary Calcification Scoring?
Coronary artery calcification scoring is a pain free, non-invasive procedure that requires less than ten minutes. The multi-detector CT scanner takes 120 images of your coronary arteries without any injections, needles or catheters. Four EKG electrodes are placed on your chest to obtain images while your heart appears motionless. The amount of calcium or plaque detected in your coronary arteries is then used to establish your cardiac score.


What Does the Heart Scan Coronary Calcification Score tell My Physician and Me?
Very early warning signs of heart disease can be detected with cardiac scoring. This is the latest tool available to detect plaque in the coronary arteries. There are five categories for calcium scores.

  1. A Score of 0 - No coronary artery disease
  2. A score of 1-11 - Indicates a minimal risk of coronary artery disease
  3. A score of 11-100 - Indicates a mild degree atherosclerotic, plaque burden
  4. A score of 101-400 - Indicates a moderate atherosclerotic plaque burden
  5. A score greater than 400 - Indicates an extensive atherosclerotic plaque burden

In addition to the total score, a percentile for age and gender is calculated. If the score >75 percentile for a patient's age/gender, then the physician will advance to recommendations for next higher calcium score range. With this information, you and your physician can formulate the appropriate treatment, which could include diet and life style changes, medications, and/or further testing.


Is Coronary Artery Disease Treatable?
Yes. Prevention, early detection, and early intervention are critical and can save many lives. Coronary artery atherosclerosis can be slowed, stabilized, and in some cases reversed through aggressive life-style modification and also through medical therapies under the supervision of a physician.


Who Should Have the Heart Scan?
Coronary Calcium scoring is not for everyone. In general, it is most appropriate for men and women, age 40-70, who have one additional risk factor. It is not for people with already known coronary heart disease, arrhythmia's, or previous heart surgery. The scan could be the first step in preventing a major fatal cardiac event. The American Heart Association now recommends the heart scan for low risk asymptomatic patients with a family history of premature heart disease or in asymptomatic intermediate risk patients.


How Do I Prepare for the Heart Scan Examination?
There is no specific preparation for the scan. You may eat or drink, however caffeinated products may make your heart beat too fast. Avoid shirts with metal straps or buttons. Women should avoid wearing a bra with under-wire or metal closures.


Is Cardiac Calcification Scoring Safe?
Yes. Radiation exposure is minimal. In fact, with prospective cardiac gating, the amount of radiation received is less than natural background radiation. No needles, injections, or sedations are used.


How Do I Receive the Results of My Heart Scan Examination?
After completion of the test, a Board Certified Radiologist will analyze the images and calcification scores. You will be provided with a typed report containing results and recommendations your study within 24 hours. A letter will also be sent to the physician of your choice, if you so choose. Advanced Medical Imaging strongly encourages you to review these results with their primary care physician to formulate a complete preventive plan.


Is the Heart Scan Exam Covered By Insurance?
No. Currently, the heart scan is not covered by insurance. Many clients utilize their health care flexible medical spending accounts or medical savings plans to pay for their evaluation. Any additional tests needed are covered by insurance and must be ordered by your physician. Please call us for more information.


Do I Need A Doctor's Referral for the Heart Scan?
Although you do not need one, we strongly encourage patients to discuss this test with their primary care physician and have them order this exam for you.


Recent topics you need to know:
A new observational study shows coronary artery calcium (CAC) progression predicts mortality independently of other cardiac risk factors in people with detectable CAC at baseline. "The more calcium progression, the more therapy the person needs," said Dr. Matthew Budoff, a researcher at Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute in Torrance, California. His team's findings appeared online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging.

A new study suggests that CT-based coronary artery calcium scans might be able to ferret out which patients with low levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and high levels of c-reactive protein need treatment with statins.

Ten-year outcomes data from the Rotterdam coronary artery calcium (CAC) study underscore the prognostic power of adding CAC to a traditional risk stratification method. New results in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology show that CAC scores frequently change the risk category for future coronary events in asymptomatic individuals. CAC was particularly effective in altering the risk scores for those at intermediate risk, wrote Suzette Elias-Smale, MD, from Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, along with colleagues from Rotterdam; Groningen, the Netherlands; and Basel, Switzerland (JACC, October 19, 2010, Vol. 56:17, pp. 1408-1414).

Adding the coronary artery calcium score (CAC) to traditional Framingham risk factors doesn't help predict which healthy lower-risk men will develop coronary heart disease (CHD), according to a new report. This was published online May 20 in the American Journal of Cardiology, suggests that CAC may not be useful for asymptomatic lower-risk men who score below 5% on the Framingham Risk Score (FRS).

A normal coronary artery calcium (CAC) scan in middle-age appears to have a "warranty period" of about four years, during which the patient is unlikely to develop coronary calcium. As first author Dr. James K. Min, from Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, and his colleagues point out in the March 16 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, little is known about the timing of CAC conversion and factors that affect progression.