What you can expectBy Mayo Clinic staff
During the procedure
A heart scan takes only a few seconds, during which you will be asked to hold your breath to obtain an accurate image. The scan will show the calcium in your heart arteries by using computerized tomography (CT).
A CT scan is an X-ray technique that produces images of your internal organs that are more detailed than are those produced by conventional X-ray exams. CT scans generate an X-ray beam that rotates around your body, and a powerful computer creates cross-sectional images, like slices, of the inside of your body.
Calcium deposits show up as bright white spots on the scan. The standard imaging technique for coronary arteries uses multislice or helical CT.
Before the scan, you may be asked to remove jewelry from around your neck and you'll change into a hospital gown, although some facilities don't require it. You'll lie on a table with a few electrodes attached to your chest. The table will slide into the CT scanner, which creates the images. You will be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds so that the technicians can get clear images of your heart. In some cases, you may be given medicine to slow your heart rate. After a few minutes, your doctor or technician will have a score that helps estimate your heart attack risk — and may help guide treatment.
In addition to identifying calcium, CT scans can produce detailed pictures of your heart arteries to show the presence of any narrowing (stenosis) of your heart arteries due to coronary artery disease. For this type of cardiac CT, dye is injected into a vein to visualize the coronary arteries (called CT angiography).
After the procedure
There aren't any special precautions you need to take after having a heart scan. You should be able to drive yourself home and continue your daily activities.
- American Heart Association position statement on state efforts to mandate coronary arterial calcification and carotid intima media thickness screenings among asymptomatic adults. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/.../ucm_437479.pdf. Accessed March 12, 2013.
- Greenland P, et al. 2010 ACCF/AHA guideline for assessment of cardiovascular risk in asymptomatic adults. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2010;56:e50.
- Whelton WP, et al. Coronary artery calcium and primary prevention risk assessment: What is the evidence? An updated meta-analysis on patient and physician behavior. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2012;5:601.
- What is a coronary calcium scan? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/cscan/cscan_all.html. Accessed March 12, 2013.
- Yeboah J, et al. Comparison of novel risk markers for improvement in cardiovascular risk assessment in intermediate-risk individuals. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2012;308:788.
- Youssef G, et al. Coronary calcium: New insights, recent data and clinical role. Current Cardiology Reports. 2013;15:325.
- Rozanski A, et al. Impact of coronary artery calcium scanning on coronary risk factors and downstream testing. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2011;57:1622.
- Nasir K, et al. Coronary calcium scanning should be used for primary prevention. JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging. 2012;5:111.
- Blaha MJ, et al. Associations between C-reactive protein, coronary artery calcium, and cardiovascular events: implications for the JUPITER population from MESA, a population-based cohort study. Lancet. 2011;378:684.
- Heart disease fact sheet. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_disease.htm. Accessed March 12, 2013.
- Gerber TC, et al. Diagnostic and prognostic implications of coronary artery calcification detected by computed tomography. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 9, 2013.
- Reinsch N, et al. Comparison of dual-source and clectron-beam CT for assessment of coronary artery calcium scoring. British Journal of Radiology. 2012;85:e300.