What is CT Calcium scoring?
Coronary heart disease remains a leading cause of death and morbidity in western as well as Indian population. Despite our continued efforts to prevent this, many patients suffer heart attacks without any warning. It is found that in over 50% of these patients there is no prior coronary stenosis or narrowing that could even be detected by exercise or stress testing. In the majority of such patients affected there are deposits of coronary calcification around the coronary arteries that indicates the presence of coronary artery disease. This coronary calcification can be detected in life using a very fast CT that has been acquired at the correct point of the cardiac cycle based on the ECG gating. What we get as results is a Coronary calcium score index, which is a very accurate predictor of heart disease developing in the following years. It also adds significantly to one's knowledge in detecting calcified plaques not causing narrowing of the coronary vessels at the present but could be responsible for a future adverse cardiac event which can remain unidentified in stress ECG. These features make the CT Coronary Calcium score one of the most powerful and useful screening tool in the prediction of coronary artery disease in use today. CT Calcium scoring is painless and requires no injections. It is very simple, less expensive and uses less radiation.
What is the common use of the test?
A CT Coronary Calcium score is used as a predictor of future adverse cardiac events. It also has a small role in evaluating possible angina prior to the CT/Catheter Coronary angiograms.
How should you prepare yourself for the test?
The CT Coronary Calcium Score study takes very little time to acquire as less as 15-20 min. It would be advisable to avoiding food that affect the heart rate like Tea, Coffee and Carbonated /fizz drinks. No fasting is needed for this test. You can wear suitable clothing as you will be asked to change into the hospital wear. The ECG electrodes will be attached across the chest.
What would you experience during the test?
The Radiologist will take a detailed history and check for any contraindication for the scan and explain in detail the procedure to you. The radiologist may require to medicate you if you heart rate is very high. You will be then taken to the CT scanner where you will be made to lie on the CT scanner machine and 3 ECG electrodes will be placed on your chest. As the Scan is taken you would be asked to hold your breath for as long as 8-10 sec. This completes your scan and you can go home. The scan is then analyzed by an experienced Cardiac Radiologist. , who would issue you a report. Your referring Cardiologist/Physician will further interpret your reports for clinical judgment.
Are there associated risks involved?
A CT Calcium score study requires very small amounts of exposure to radiation. However the risk from radiation is easily justified for the value of detecting early heart disease.
How long will it take to get my results?
Although the Calcium Score is easily calculated minutes after the test, the interpretation of these values by the cardiac radiologist and cardiologist in context of other tests and symptoms will take time. Reports will be available the next working day.
Article by Dr. Zeeshan Sakina Lakhani
Consultant Cardiac Radiologist, Kauvery Hospital