How It Is Done
A coronary calcium scan is
usually done by a radiology technologist. The pictures are usually interpreted
radiologist. Other doctors, such as a
family medicine doctor,
surgeon, may also review this
You will need to remove any jewelry that might be in the way
of the X-ray picture. You may need to take off some of your clothes. If so, you
will be given a gown to use during the test. For some CT scans, you may be able
to wear your clothes. If so, wear loose clothes that do not have zippers or
Small metal discs called electrodes will be put on your
chest. Wires connect these to an
EKG machine that records the electrical activity of
your heart on paper. The EKG records when your heart is in the resting stage,
which is the best time for the CT scans to be taken.
If your heart
rate is 90 beats per minute or higher, you may be given medicine to slow your
During the test, you will lie on a table connected to
the CT scanner. The scanner is a large doughnut-shaped machine.
The table slides into the round opening of the machine, and the scanner
moves around your body. The table will move a little every few seconds to take
new pictures. You may hear clicking or buzzing sounds as the table and scanner
You may be asked to hold your breath for 20 to 30 seconds
while pictures of your heart are taken. It is very important to hold completely
still while the pictures are taken.
During the test, you are
usually alone in the scanner room. But the technologist will watch you through
a window. You will be able to talk with the technologist through a two-way
A coronary calcium scan takes about 30
How It Feels
You won't have any pain from the X-rays
during the coronary calcium scan. But the table you lie on may feel hard
and the room may be cool. You may find it hard to lie in one position for a
The chance of a coronary calcium scan causing a problem is small.
- There is a slight chance of developing cancer from having a coronary calcium scan. The chance is higher in people who have many radiation tests. If you are concerned about this risk, talk to your doctor about the amount of radiation this test may give you and confirm that the test is needed.
- Plaque that is not hard (soft plaque) can't be
found with a coronary calcium scan. Soft plaque is the earliest form of damage
to the arteries of the heart. If you have soft plaque in your arteries, the
test may give normal results, but this is a
false-negative result. The buildup of soft plaque can
also cause a heart attack.
- It is possible to have
false-positive test results. This means that the test
shows a high chance of plaque in the arteries of the heart when it is not
true. People with a low chance of heart disease are most likely to have a