Your cardiac score is measured during a cardiac CT scan which is a non-invasive way of getting information about the location and extent of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries which are the vessels that supply oxygen-carrying blood to the heart. Plaque is actually a build-up of fat and other substances, like calcium, which can, over time, narrow the arteries or even close off blood flow to the heart resulting in painful angina in the chest or a heart attack.
Because calcium is a sign of coronary heart disease, the amount of calcium found during a cardiac CT scan is a very useful indication of the risk of you suffering from the disease.
Cardiac CT takes little time and causes no pain. The exam does not require injection of contrast material so it avoids possible side effects. No radiation remains in your body after a CT examination and the x-rays used usually have no side effects.
Some common uses of calcium scoringThe main reason your G.P. or consultant may refer you for a cardiac CT for calcium scoring is to screen for coronary heart disease at an early stage when there are no symptoms and to determine how severe it is. If you think you are at risk from coronary heart disease you should discuss this with your G.P. as soon as possible.
It is usually recommended as a screening for patients with risk factors for coronary heart disease but who have no symptoms at present. It is most often suggested for men aged 45 years or older and for women who are aged 55 and above or who are postmenopausal.
Other than age, the main risk factors for coronary artery disease are:
- high cholesterol levels
- a family history of heart disease
- high blood pressure
- being overweight
- lack of exercise
Going for a calcium score test
You can expect a similar experience to going for any CT scan. The only special preparation you need is to avoid caffeine and smoking for four hours before the exam. You can continue to take your usual medicines unless otherwise advised by your doctor.
Who interprets the results and how do I get them?
A radiologist, who is specifically trained to interpret radiology images, will examine your scan and send a report to your G.P. or consultant who will discuss the results with you.
A negative cardiac CT scan that shows no calcification within the coronary arteries suggests that you have a very low chance of developing coronary heart disease over the next two to five years.
A positive test means that you may have coronary heart disease, even if you don't have any symptoms. The amount of calcification the calcium score may help your doctor to predict the likelihood of a heart attack in the coming years.
|If your calcium score is:||The plaque level will be:|
|0||No evidence of plaque|
|1-10||Minimal evidence of plaque|
|11-100||Mild evidence of plaque|
|101-400||Moderate evidence of plaque|
What are the issues for Calcium Scoring?
- Conventional CT units may not be big enough to fit a very obese person.
- Not all blocked arteries contain calcium and calcium deposits in the coronary arteries does not always mean that there is a blockage.
- Soft plaque, the earliest form of coronary heart disease, cannot be detected by a cardiac CT scan.
- A high heart rate may interfere with the test, so if your heart rate is 90 or more beats per minute, the scan may need to be rescheduled.
- The medical profession is not certain how a calcium score relates to the likelihood of experiencing coronary heart disease.
- Men younger than 35 years of age and women younger than 40 may not benefit from cardiac CT calcium scoring unless they have other risk factors such as diabetes or a family history of heart disease.
Is it covered?
A cardiac CT for calcium scoring is treated as a health screening benefit and is covered up to the level set out for the day-to-day plan you have purchased.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or for the care that you receive from your doctor or other health professionals. If you are concerned about your health you should consult your doctor.
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