Singing River Health System offers a simple, non-invasive test called the Cardiac Score Screening, also known as the Calcium Score Screening. This heart screening can measure the build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries – the most likely cause of a heart attack. When the condition is caught early, changes in diet, lifestyle and medications may be enough to help with prevention.
The Cardiac Score Screening is simple, painless and affordable. During the exam, the patient lies on a table, fully clothed, and holds his or her breath for a few seconds while CT images of the heart are captured. The results are evaluated by a radiologist and will be available to your doctor within 24 hours.
Your doctor uses the Cardiac Score Screening to evaluate your risk for future coronary artery disease or heart disease. Those at increased risk include individuals with the following traits:
- Family or personal history of coronary artery disease
- Male over 45 years of age / female over 55 years of age
- Past or present smoker
- History of high cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure
- Inactive lifestyle
Because there are certain forms of coronary disease like soft plaque atherosclerosis that escape detection during this CT scan, it is important to remember that this test is not absolute in predicting your risk for a life-threatening event, such as a heart attack.
Discover a brief summary of the expectations for your screening.
Before and During the Procedure
You will change into a hospital gown and lie on a special scanning table. The technologist will clean three small areas of your chest and place small, sticky electrode patches on these areas. Men may expect to have their chest partially clipped to help the electrodes stick. The electrodes are attached to an Electrocardiograph (ECG) monitor, which charts your heart’s electrical activity during the test.
During the scan, which only takes a few minutes, you will feel the table move inside a donut-shaped scanner. The high-speed CT scan captures multiple images, synchronized with your heartbeat. A sophisticated computer program, guided by a radiologist, then analyzes the images for presence of clarification within the coronary arteries. Absence of calcium is considered a negative exam. It does not exclude the presence of soft non-calcified plaque. If calcium is present, the computer will create a calcium score that estimates the extent of coronary artery disease.
After the Procedure
You may continue all normal activities and eat as usual after the test. Interpreting the results involves a process:
- The CT scan and its computer program will determine the number and density of calcified coronary plaques in the coronary arteries.
- A calcium score is provided, and your results will be examined and reviewed.
- The team will evaluate the calcium score along with other risk factor measurements (risk factor evaluation, blood pressure, lipid analysis) to determine your risk for future coronary artery disease and will make recommendations regarding your lifestyle, medications or additional cardiac testing.
You and your primary care physician will receive the full report outlining your risk assessment and follow-up recommendations.