fbpx
heart as seen in CAT scan

HEART SCAN / CARDIAC CT

Heart Icon for Heart scan / Cardiac CT services at Premier Diagnostic Imaging in Cookeville, Tennessee

Provided by Premier Diagnostic Imaging

About a Heart Scan / Cardiac CT for Calcium Screening

A heart scan, also known as a cardiac computed tomography (CT) for calcium scoring (and sometimes called a coronary calcium scan), is a simple imaging test that can identify possible coronary artery disease long before you have any signs or symptoms. The earlier you find these issues, the sooner you can take steps to focus on creating healthier habits to prevent a worsening condition.

Specifically, the coronary CT scan measures the calcium deposits in your arteries. This calcium plaque is a combination of calcium, fats, cholesterol and other substances in your blood. It builds over time and doesn’t show many symptoms of disease early on. When this plaque builds up and gets to a certain point, it narrows your coronary arteries, and decreases blood flow to the heart–which could put you at you a high risk for heart disease or even a heart attack!

Your doctor may then use the results of the heart scan to check your level of risk present and calculate the appropriate next steps. For instance, you may need medication or a few lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of a serious heart attack or other heart conditions.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in America, but it is preventable. If detected early enough, it’s possible to reverse.

These cardiac screenings are of importance to patients with many risk factors for heart disease such as family history of heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet and a high-stress lifestyle.

Patient about to get an MRI while a doctor and nurse make her comfortable at Premier Diagnostic Imaging in Cookeville, Tennessee

What to Expect

You’ll lay on a CT table, and you may have the support of pillows to help you stay in the proper position during the procedure. At this point, the table will move into the opening of the CT scanner, and very small, controlled amounts of x-ray radiation will pass through your body–but don’t worry, these small levels of radiation are considered safe for adults.

It’s important to note: You will be spending a few minutes in an enclosed space, so if you’re someone who’s affected by claustrophobia, it’s important to speak to your technician before the procedure. There are a few steps you can take to prepare yourself:

  • Ask your physician to see the equipment in advance. This is to reduce anxiety.
  • Ask about mild sedation. This will depend on your personal health history, requirements of the procedure and the opinion of your physician.

Although unlikely, if you do need sedation before an exam, you will be receiving specific instructions from your scheduler. These instructions will include extra dietary restrictions and medicine to take before your CT scan.

The procedure doesn’t take long and is completely painless. During the procedure, the table moves you through the scanner, allowing the x-rays to move around your body. You may hear a few buzzing or whirring noises, which is completely normal. It’s possible that movement could blur the images, so you’ll need to lay very still for the duration of the exam; you may even need to hold your breath for a few seconds if requested.

After a few rounds, you’ll have to wait for a couple of minutes while your technician reviews the images for clarity.

How to Prepare

Preparation for your CT scan is simple but vital for an accurate reading. You’ll have to avoid eating or drinking anything for four to eight hours before the exam (water is okay). You will also need to avoid caffeine and smoking for four hours before the exam since they can affect your heart rate.

You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, without zippers or snaps–and be sure to leave any jewelry at home. Patient lockers are available for your jewelry and other valuables, but we encourage to leave them at home during the procedures. Women should inform the technician if there is any possibility that you are pregnant.

Key Points

  • Bring comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, without zippers or snaps.
  • Do not eat or drink anything except water (four to eight hours prior)
  • Avoid caffeine or smoking (four to eight hours prior)
  • Do not bring jewelry to the exam
  • Talk to your doctor if you have severe claustrophobia
  • Talk to your doctor if you may be an expecting mother

The entire examination shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes, depending on the location that is being scanned. Most people will be able to drive themselves home afterwards. You will not be able to drive if you’ve had any form of sedation–so be sure to make the proper accommodations in advance.

Results

After your exam, your radiologist will review and interpret your CT. Test results are available within 48 hours for you to view on our Patient Portal.

We also send test results directly to your physician. From there, your doctor will follow up with you with the test results and recommendations regarding your heart health.

Sources

US Food and Drug Administration
https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/medical-x-ray-imaging/what-are-radiation-risks-ct

Center for Disease Control
https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

For more detailed information on the cardiac CTs for calcium scoring
offered by Premier Diagnostic Imaging, Email or Call Us at (931)-528-1800.

Additional Resources:

Visit https://www.radiologyinfo.org/