Calcium score and CT angiogram are radiographic techniques used to determine the condition of the arteries that supply blood to the heart known as the coronary arteries. These arteries narrow over time due to the deposition of calcium and cholesterol in its walls. The reduction in blood supply to the heart over time may lead to the death of cardiac tissue. A sudden rupture of the plaque in the wall of the artery may lead to the development of a blood clot that causes complete occlusion of the artery; this leads to a heart attack. Calcium score and CT angiograms are done to identify these arteries beforehand.
- For this procedure, you will be required to wear a medical gown and will be escorted to the room with the CT scan machine. A series of electrodes will be applied to your chest to monitor the activity of your heart. Your doctor will give you medication to reduce your heart rate to enable the machine to take better pictures. After this, you will be asked to lie on a movable table. This table will move into a tunnel-like machine with you on the table. You will be able to communicate with the technician all the time during the procedure. After you are properly placed in the machine the technician will ask you to hold your breath and stay very still while the machine captures multiple images. The procedure takes around 10-15 minutes.
- Before the procedure, a technician will give you medication like beta-blockers to reduce your heart rate. After changing into a medical gown you will be told to lie on a table in the room with the CT scan. The technician will put electrodes on your chest to monitor the activity of your heart. To visualize the coronary arteries, the technicians will inject dye into your body by an intravenous line. The table will then slide into a tunnel-like machine. The technician will ask you to hold your breath and stay very still to prevent the blurring of images. The whole procedure might take around an hour.
- This procedure is indicated for individuals with a mild to moderate risk of a heart attack. The risk is calculated by taking various factors into account like age, gender, family history, past history.
- This procedure is suggested by the doctor to assess the extent of the narrowing of the coronary artery. The results help in deciding the future course of action.
What Information do these tests provide?
- Based on the extent of calcium deposits, a calcium score is derived:
0 to 99: Mild coronary artery disease
100-399: Moderate coronary artery disease.
> 400: Severe coronary artery disease.
- This test provides more detailed information about the amount of plaque built inside the heart arteries. It is sometimes used as an alternative to heart catheterization in young or low-risk patients.
There are no complications following a calcium scoring scan.
Allergy to the dye used for the angiography may lead to a reaction that is easily controlled with the help of steroids.
Following both the scans, you can return home as soon as they are done. You will be advised to drink plenty of water following a CT angiogram to flush out the dye from your body.