CACS Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring

A Coronary Artery Calcium Score exam is a non-invasive CT scan that will show the presence, location, and extent of calcified deposits in the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries are the vessels that supply oxygen-containing blood to the heart muscle. Because calcium is a marker of Coronary Artery Disease, the amount of calcium detected on a cardiac CT scan is a helpful prognostic tool. The higher the score, the more calcium is present. Your doctor uses this score with other information such as age, family history, and cholesterol level to determine the health of your heart.  Early detection is the key to prevention and your CACS exam is the first step to a healthier tomorrow.



What are some common reasons the scan is ordered?

The following factors may indicate risk for heart disease and the need for a CACS exam. Consider consulting your physician if one or more risk factors apply to you.
The major risk factors for CAD are:

  • Family history of heart disease
  • High levels of cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Male over age 45 or Female over age 55
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity


Reasons you may not qualify to have a CT Coronary Calcium Test:

  • Resting heart rate over 90 beats per minute (the exam may need to be rescheduled)
  • Patient weighing over 450 pounds
  • Known history of extensive heart disease


How should I prepare?

  • You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing without metal parts, like zippers and snaps, for your exam. If not, you may be asked to change into a gown for the procedure. Remove any jewelry that would interfere with the scan.

  • For 48 hours before the exam time, please avoid:
    Any erectile dysfunction medications

  • For 12 hours before the exam time, please avoid:
    Caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, soft drinks)

  • You must register at the Admitting/Registration office on the main (second) floor across from the gift shop one hour before your exam time. After registering for the exam, you will be directed to the Cashiers office and then to the Radiology department.


What equipment is used at Washington Health System Washington Hospital?

The CT scanners are accredited by the American College of Radiology. ACR-accredited facilities


Our Multislice CT scanners provide the highest quality images with the lowest possible dose. The CT scanner gives your doctor the superior image quality required for the most accurate diagnosis. The scanner accommodates patients weighing up to 450 pounds. The CT table lowers to only 12 inches from the floor for easy patient access.The scanner acquires the images in just a few seconds while you are comfortably lying on the patient table. The exam is completed within a single breath hold.



How is the procedure performed?

  • The technologist begins by positioning you on the CT scanner table. You will be lying on your back with your arms resting above your head.

  • Electrodes (small, adhesive pads) will be placed on your chest and attached to an electrocardiograph (heart) monitor that will record the electrical activity of the heart. This makes it possible to obtain your CT scan in correlation to your heart rate.

  • You will not receive any contrast material for this exam. It is a quick, easy, and painless procedure.
    The CT scan does expose you to radiation, but the risks of cardiovascular disease largely outweigh the risks of this limited exposure.

  • The table will move through the machine as the actual CT imaging is performed. You will be asked to hold your breath for a period of 10 to 20 seconds while images are recorded.

  • When the examination is completed, you will be able to leave and return to your normal activities.
    The entire procedure is usually completed within 30 minutes.


Who interprets the results and how do I get them?
A cardiologist and a radiologist will analyze the images and send a signed report to your primary care physician and the physician who referred you for the exam. Your doctor will discuss the results with you.


Calcium Score

Presence of CAD


No evidence of CAD

1 - 10

Minimal evidence of CAD

11 - 100

Mild evidence of CAD


Moderate evidence of CAD

Over 400

Extensive evidence of CAD


A negative cardiac CT scan for calcium scoring shows no calcification within the coronary arteries. This suggests that CAD is absent or so minimal it cannot be seen by this technique.

A positive test means that CAD is present, regardless of whether or not you are experiencing any symptoms. The amount of calcification—expressed as the calcium score—may help to predict the likelihood of a heart attack in the future. This score will help your doctor decide whether you need to take any corrective actions such as preventive medicine or diet changes and exercise to lower the risk for heart attack.



Benefits of Coronary Calcium Scoring:

  • It detects coronary artery disease at an early stage when there are no symptoms.
  • It is a convenient and noninvasive way of evaluating whether you may be at an increased risk for a heart attack.
  • This exam takes little time, causes no pain, and does not require an injection of iodinated contrast material.
  • No radiation remains inside your body after a CT exam.


How do I schedule a CT Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring Test?

  • You will need a prescription from your physician.
  • A nominal fee will be charged for this exam. This fee is payable on the day of your test. You may pay with cash, check, Visa, or Mastercard. The hospital cannot accept Discover card or American Express
  • To schedule this exam call (724) 250-4300 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.


If you have any questions/concerns about your CT exam, please call us at (724) 225-7000 and ask for the CT department.

If you should have to cancel your appointment, please contact us at (724) 250-4300 as soon as possible.



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