WHAT IS THE CORONARY CALCIUM SCORE TEST?
There are several names given to this diagnostic test. Among them are:
- Coronary calcium scan
- Cardiac calcium scoring CT
- Cardiac CT for calcium scoring
- Cardiac calcium score test
- Coronary artery calcium score (CAC score) test
- Calcium test for heart
- Calcium heart scan
A coronary calcium score test is a scan that uses special x-ray equipment to produce images of the coronary arteries to determine if they are blocked or narrowed by the buildup of atherma (plaque), indicating atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease (CAD).
Asthma is an abnormal deposit that develops within the walls of arteries, including fats, cholesterol, calcium, etc.
The scan supplies information that can help evaluate whether you are at increased risk of a heart attack.
CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE (CAD)
CAD is the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries are the blood vessels that convey blood vessels to your heart. CAD is caused by the buildup of cholesterol, calcium, and fatty deposits inside the arteries (atherosclerosis).
These plaques can block or damage the arteries, thereby hinder or stop blood flow to the heart muscle. Blockage of blood means non-supply of oxygen and nutrients to the heart. This can cause chest pain or heart attack.
USES OF CARDIAC CALCIUM SCORE TEST
The first step in rescuing the coronary arteries from narrowing or blockage is to determine the extent to which damage is done.
This is possible by using a cardiac CT for calcium scoring to produce an x-ray imaging of the affected coronary arteries.
COMPLICATIONS OF CAD
Coronary artery disease can lead to the following health statuses if left untreated:
- Chest pain.
- Arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeats).
- Heart attack.
- Heart failure.
- Related arterial diseases such as ischemic strokes and aneurysms.
- Sudden death.
- Radiation during an x-ray may result in potential cancer.
SYMPTOMS OF CAD
The symptoms of coronary artery disease may range from no symptoms to a heart attack, a life-threatening condition.
People with CAD may experience:
- Chest pains.
- Shortened breath.
- Profuse sweating.
- Fast heartbeats.
- Pains in the arms and shoulders.
- Vomiting (in women).
RISK FACTORS OF CAD
Knowledge of the risk factors associated with CAD can help in preventing or reducing your chances of developing the disease.
Such risk factors include:
- High blood cholesterol levels.
- Tobacco-smoking or drug-taking.
- High blood pressure.
- Low activity rate.
- Unhealthy eating habits.
- Insulin resistance or hyperglycemia.
- Obstructive sleep apnea.
- Emotional stress.
- Diabetes mellitus.
- Too much consumption of alcohol.
- A family history of heart attacks.
- Increased risk due to aging.
Greater risks start at age 45 for men and age 55 for women.
PREPARING FOR CORONARY CALCIUM SCORE TEST
The preparation for the cardiac calcium scoring CT is simple.
- Continue taking your usual medications.
- Don’t take caffeine or smoke four hours before the examination.
- Wear comfortable and loose-fitting clothing to the exam.
- You may leave your jewelry, dentures, hairpin, eyeglasses at home before going for the exams (metal objects can affect the CT images), or expect to remove them before the exam.
- Women may be asked to remove bras (if they contain metal underwire).
- Women should inform their doctor or CT technologist if they are pregnant.
CARDIAC CT PROCEDURES
The procedures for coronary calcium scan are performed by a CT technologist. They are analyzed by a radiologist. The duration of the cardiac CT exam is approximately 10─15 minutes.
- The technologist positions you on the CT exam table.
- You lie flat on your back.
- Straps and pillows are used to help you maintain a correct position.
- Electrodes will be attached to your chest and to an electrocardiograph (ECG) machine that records the electrical activity of your heart.
- The table will move quickly through the scanner.
- The table will again move slowly through the machine for the actual CT scanning to be performed.
- The machine will make several passes.
- You should hold your breath for 10─20 seconds while the images are recorded.
At the end of the exam, you should wait until the technologist verifies that the images are of high quality that enables accurate interpretation.
RESULTS FOR CARDIAC CALCIUM SCORING CT EXAM
A radiologist will analyze the images and send an official report to your doctor. A negative cardiac CT scan for calcium scoring indicates no calcification within the coronary arteries.
This suggests the absence of CAD, or that it is so minimal that the machine couldn’t detect it. That rules out the chance of having a heart attack over the next 2─5 years.
A positive result indicates the presence of CAD, irrespective of the absence of the pressure of symptoms. The amount of calcification is expressed as the calcium score and is used to predict the likelihood of myocardial infarction (cardiac arrest, also known as a heart attack) in the coming years.
The extent of calcification also helps your doctor or cardiologist to decide the need for a preventive medication or other lifestyle habits to lower the risk of a heart attack.
The extent of CAD is graded according to your calcium score. Below is the grading:
|Calcium Score||Presence of CAD|
|Over 400||Extensive evidence|
Follow-up exams are usually arranged because a potential abnormality needs further evaluation or special imaging techniques. Sometimes, there is a change in abnormality over time. A follow-up exam is the best way to see if treatment is working or if an abnormality is stable or deteriorating.
- Can cardiac calcium score be lowered?
The good news is that there are steps you can take to reduce the increase in calcification, and in some cases, even reduce the calcium score. And you can do it without the use of statins and other medications that lower LDL, cholesterol, and reduce inflammation.
- What should I do if my coronary calcium score is high?
Aspirin and HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors may be recommended in most cases when the calcium score is high for primary prevention of clinical heart disease.
- What is a good cardiac calcium score?
A good cardiac calcium score is a zero score. A score of zero represents no calcium seen in the heart. It suggests a low chance of developing a heart attack in the future. When calcium is present, the higher the score and the higher your risk of a heart attack becomes. A score of 100─400 means moderate plaque deposits.
- What are the warning signs of clogged arteries?
The symptoms of clogged arteries include chest pains, shortened breath, extreme fatigue, heart attack, abnormal heartbeats, indigestion, sweating, nausea, and dizziness, amongst others.
- Can CAD be cured?
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is treatable, but there is no cure. It is important to note that you have to diagnose your cardiac calcium score, to prevent yourself from a sudden heart attack. Consult a cardiologist.