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Cardiac Calcium Score Screenings

To schedule an appointment, please call 1-800-4BAYLOR (1.800.422.9567)

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the leading cause of heart attacks. While the symptoms and signs of coronary artery disease are noticeable in the advanced state, most individuals with coronary artery disease show no evidence of disease for decades as the disease progresses before the first onset of symptoms, often a "sudden" heart attack, finally arises. CAD occurs when plaques build up and narrow your arteries, called atherosclerosis. The plaques are made of fat, cholesterol and calcium. Heart scans, like those offered at Baylor Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital, use noninvasive techniques to measure the amount of calcium in the walls of your coronary arteries-the arteries that supply your heart with blood. Having calcium in the walls of your arteries could mean that you have coronary artery disease.

Cardiac calcium scoring is performed to:

  • Find out if you have coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • Find out how severe your heart disease is
  • Sometimes predict if you will get symptoms of CAD

What exactly is CAD and why does it affect so many people?

  • CAD occurs when plaques build up and narrow your arteries, called atherosclerosis.
  • The plaques are made of fat, cholesterol and calcium.
  • While the symptoms and signs of coronary artery disease are noticeable in the advanced state, most individuals with coronary artery disease show no evidence of disease for decades as the disease progresses before the first onset of symptoms, often a "sudden" heart attack, finally arises.

But there is a test that can detect it before you have symptoms--what is it?

  • Heart scan that takes a few minutes
  • Noninvasive - no needles, cutting or medication
  • The scan will show the calcium by using a computerized tomography (CT) scan

How does the CT scan work to help detect heart disease?

  • An x-ray technique that produces images of your internal organs that are more detailed than are those produced by conventional x-ray exams.
  • Use an x-ray generating device that rotates around your body and a very powerful computer to create cross-sectional images, like slices, of the inside of your body.
  • The calcium deposits show up as bright white spots on the scan.

What is the process like for the patient?

  • You will lie on the table with a few electrodes attached to your chest.
  • The table will slide into the CT scanner, which creates the images.
  • You may be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds so that the technicians can get clear images of your heart.
  • After a few minutes, you will have a score that helps you estimate your heart attack risk - and help guide treatment.

What does your calcium score mean?

  • The higher the score, the more plaque you have in the arteries of your heart. This makes your chance of having a heart attack higher.
  • With this knowledge start treatment to prevent plaque buildup in the future
  • Take steps to lower your chance of getting coronary artery disease: eat well, quit smoking and get more exercise.

Who should get this test?

This test is recommended for men ages 40 to 65 and for women ages 45 to 70 with one of the following risk factors:

  • Diabetes
  • Current smoker
  • Obese
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Cholesterol level greater than 160/LDL
  • Blood pressure greater than 140/90

If you are outside the recommended age range a physician order is required.
Younger adults may be tested if one or more of their close relatives has or had early coronary artery disease.


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