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  • Writer's pictureDr Woo JW

Understanding Your Heart: CT Calcium Scoring

Updated: Mar 6

The Role of CT Calcium Scoring in Cardiovascular Risk Assessment

A women lying down in a CT machine

The CT Calcium Score, a non-invasive diagnostic tool, is revolutionising our understanding of heart health. This test uses advanced imaging technology to detect calcium deposits in the heart’s arteries, providing a glimpse into the state of one’s cardiovascular health. A high score could indicate a higher risk of heart disease. Let’s delve deeper into the importance of the CT Calcium Score and how it’s shaping the future of cardiac care.

A CT Calcium Score is a type of X-ray that checks for calcium in the arteries of your heart. The presence of calcium indicates mature calcified coronary plaques, which is a mixture of calcium and fat. This buildup of plaque, also known as atherosclerosis, can narrow the arteries and reduce blood flow to the heart.

CT Calcium Score predicts heart problems by measuring the amount of calcium in arteries. A high score suggests heart disease. It detects coronary artery disease early before symptoms, enabling timely treatment.

If a person has a moderate risk of heart disease, a CT Calcium Score can provide valuable information about their heart health. The risk of heart disease can be influenced by various factors such as age, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, smoking habits, and gender.

What to Expect

The CT Calcium Score test is a quick and non-invasive procedure that is typically performed in the radiology department of a hospital or outpatient imaging facility.

The entire procedure takes about 10 to 15 minutes, but the CT scan itself only takes a few minutes. During the test, you will be asked to lie flat on your back with your arms positioned above your head.

Four monitoring wires will be placed on your chest to synchronise the scan with your heart's motion. To ensure clear images, you will be asked to hold still and briefly hold your breath while you are moved through the scanner.

The CT scan uses a special type of X-ray to take pictures of your heart's arteries. The images are used to detect any calcium deposits in the arteries, and the amount of calcium detected is then calculated to produce a score. This score can help doctors assess your risk of developing coronary artery disease.

 If your score is high, indicating a greater amount of calcium and a higher risk of heart disease, your doctor will discuss the next steps with you.

These next steps may include making lifestyle changes, taking medication, or undergoing further testing. Lifestyle changes may involve improving your diet, increasing physical activity, quitting smoking, or managing stress. If medication is recommended, it could be to lower cholesterol, control blood pressure, or prevent blood clots.

Since the test is a non-invasive medical procedure. You can typically go home immediately after the test, and you may experience some minor side effects like nausea or dizziness, which should subside quickly.

Potential Side Effects

While they are generally safe, it's important to be aware of the potential side effects and risks associated with CT Calcium Scores, some of the most common risks include:

  1. Allergic Reaction to the Contrast Dye Some people may have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye used in the procedure. If you have a history of allergies, it's important to inform your healthcare provider before the procedure.

  2. Radiation Exposure A CT Calcium Score involves radiation exposure. The amount of radiation exposure varies depending on the type of machine used. Pregnant women should not have a CT Calcium Score due to potential harm to the unborn child.

  3. Nausea, Vomiting, and Dizziness Some patients may experience nausea, vomiting, and dizziness during or after the procedure.

  4. Bleeding or Infection There is a small risk of bleeding or infection at the site of the injection.

It's important to note that a CT Calcium Score scan is a quick and painless procedure that does not require the injection of contrast material. Also, no radiation remains in a patient's body after a cardiac CT for Calcium Scoring scan. Finally, X-rays used in standard CT scans have no immediate side effects.

In conclusion, the CT Calcium Score is a powerful, non-invasive diagnostic tool that provides valuable insights into one’s heart health. It allows doctors to visualise the coronary arteries and detect any calcium deposits, which can be indicative of plaque buildup.

Understanding the potential side effects, procedures, and aftercare associated with a CT Calcium Score can help patients feel more prepared and at ease.

At Sunrise Heart Specialist Clinic, Dr. Woo and his team are dedicated to keeping your heart healthy. With years of experience and a passion for heart health, we provide top-notch care tailored to your needs. Book an appointment today and take the first step towards a healthier heart. Your heart doesn’t rest, and neither do we.


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