Knowing your score could save your life. A cardiac CT calcium score, also known as a coronary calcium scan, is a quick, convenient and noninvasive way of evaluating the amount of calcified (hard) plaque in your heart vessels. The level of calcium equates to the extent of plaque build-up in your arteries. Plaque in the arteries can cause heart attacks.
The radiologist reads the images and sends your doctor a report with a calcium score. Patients with higher scores have a greater risk for a heart attack, heart disease or stroke. Knowing your score can help your doctor decide on blood pressure and cholesterol goals that will minimize your risk as much as possible.
The American College of Cardiology found that Coronary artery calcification (CAC) is an excellent cardiovascular disease risk marker and can help guide the decision to use cholesterol reducing medications such as statins. A negative calcium score may reduce the need for statins in otherwise eligible patients.
The exam takes less than 10 minutes, is painless and does not require any IV or oral contrast. The exam is typically not covered by insurance. The fee at Johns Hopkins Medical Imaging locations is $75.
Who should get a Cardiac CT Calcium Score:
- Middle age adults at intermediate risk of heart disease
- Family history of heart disease
- Borderline high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes
- Overweight or physical inactivity
- Uncertain about taking daily preventive medical therapy
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How do I prepare for a Cardiac CT Calcium Score?
You won't need to take any special preparation in advance of a cardiac CT examination. You may be asked to change into a patient gown. If so, a gown will be provided for you. A locker will be provided to secure personal belongings. Please leave all jewelry and valuables at home.
PRECAUTIONS: If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, please check with your doctor before scheduling the exam. We will discuss other options with you and your doctor.
EAT/DRINK: You should not consume food or drinks on the day of your exam. You should not have caffeine 12 hours prior to your appointment. Otherwise, there are no restrictions on eating and drinking non-caffeinated products prior to your exam.
MEDICATION: All patients can take their prescribed medications as usual.
There is typically no special type of care following a Cardiac CT Score. However, your health care provider may give you additional instructions depending on your specific health condition. A radiologist with expertise in supervising and interpreting radiology examinations will analyze the images and send an official report to your primary care physician or physician who referred you for the exam, who will discuss the results with you.
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