Skip to content

Heart Disease Health Center

Heart Disease and the Heart CT Scan

Font Size
A
A
A

A heart computerized tomography (CT) scan, also called calcium-score screening heart scan, is a test used to detect calcium deposits found in atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary arteries of heart disease patients. State-of-the-art computerized tomography (CT) methods, such as this one, are the most effective way to detect coronary calcification from atherosclerosis, before symptoms develop. More coronary calcium means more coronary atherosclerosis, suggesting a greater likelihood of significant narrowing somewhere in the coronary system and a higher risk of future cardiovascular problems.

Your doctor uses the calcium-score screening heart scan to evaluate risk for future coronary artery disease.

Recommended Related to Heart Disease

Recognizing Heart Attack, Stroke, and Angina

Doctors call it the "Hollywood heart attack": a middle-aged man breaks into a cold sweat, grimaces, and clutches his chest-just like in the movies. Trouble is, in real life, heart attack symptoms don't always announce themselves so dramatically. More often they are insidious and puzzling, such as unexplained fatigue or abdominal discomfort, and many people wait for hours before seeking help. Big mistake, doctors tell WebMD. The ability to quickly spot signs of heart attack, angina, and stroke...

Read the Recognizing Heart Attack, Stroke, and Angina article > >

Because there are certain forms of coronary disease, such as "soft plaque" atherosclerosis, that escape detection during this CT scan, it is important to remember that this test is not absolute in predicting your risk for a life-threatening event, such as a heart attack.

Your doctor may also order a coronary CT angiogram (CTA) to look directly at the arteries of the heart. With the CTA, pictures of your coronary arteries are made.  This is regularly performed in addition to a heart CT scan now.

 

How Should I Prepare for a Heart CT Scan?

You may continue to take any medications, but should avoid caffeine and smoking for four hours before the test. CT scanners use X-rays. For your safety, the amount of radiation exposure is kept to a minimum. But, because X-rays can harm a developing fetus, this procedure is not recommended if you are pregnant. Tell your technologist and your doctor if you are:

  • Pregnant
  • Undergoing radiation therapy
1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
 
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
Compressed heart
Article
 
empty football helmet
Article
red wine
Video
 
eating blueberries
Article
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Slideshow
 
Inside A Heart Attack
SLIDESHOW
Omega 3 Sources
SLIDESHOW
 
Salt Shockers
SLIDESHOW
lowering blood pressure
SLIDESHOW