Cardiac Scoring is a CT scan of the coronary arteries in your heart and allows your doctor to estimate your risk of a future heart attack or heart disease. During the exam, the CT machine will take images of your coronary arteries for our radiologist to analyze the amount of calcium deposits on the coronary artery. Robert Isaacs, MD, a radiologist with Adventist HealthCare Imaging answers common questions about the scan.
When is cardiac scoring recommended?
Dr. Isaacs: Your doctor may recommend a cardiac scoring exam if you are at high risk for coronary artery disease (CAD). Many times, someone with CAD, does not experience symptoms. This test allows doctors to see how much calcified plaque is in your coronary arteries. If you have questions about the exam, talk with your doctor. Depending on your risk, your doctor may recommend this test to decide what treatment plan is best for you. High-risk factors include:
- having high LDL cholesterol
- having low HDL cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- family history
What happens during the exam?
Dr. Isaacs: During a Cardiac Scoring exam, a tech will explain the procedure and ask you to change into a gown. EKG electrodes will be placed on your chest to monitor your heart rate throughout the test. During the scan, you will be asked to lay perfectly still on your back as the machine moves and takes photos of your heart. In total, the scan should only take about 15 minutes.
What does my score mean?
Dr. Isaacs: The calcium score helps you and your doctor understand your risk for a heart attack and or heart disease. The amount of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries correlates to the risk of CAD. Your doctor may suggest making lifestyle changes to decrease your risk, or they may offer other treatments depending on your score. Lifestyle changes can include exercising more, eating better and quitting smoking. Your score will be calculated as a number, and your number will tell you how much plaque was found in your heart.
- 0 – no identifiable atherosclerotic plaque was found.
- 1-10 – you have minimal plaque burden in your heart.
- 11-100 – mild plaque burden was found.
- 101-400 – moderate plaque burden was discovered in your heart.
- 401 or greater –extensive plaque burden was found.