What You Need to Know About Coronary CT Calcium Scoring

With cardiovascular diseases consistently on the rise in Australia, the need for effective diagnostic tools that can shed light on an individual’s risk for heart problems is crucial. For doctors, the Coronary CT Calcium Score test not only helps clarify the risk for heart disease, its dropping costs means it will be more readily used in cardiovascular diagnoses today. 

What is a Coronary CT Calcium Score?

The Coronary CT Calcium score test is a non-invasive test and CT scan that measures the amount of calcified plaque(calcium) in your coronary arteries, which allows doctors to calculate your risk of developing coronary artery disease, heart attack, or a stroke. 

CT – Coronary Angiogram: norm, moderate, severe (Image source: Macquarie Medical Imaging)

Why Your Doctor has Referred You

Your doctor may order a Coronary CT Calcium score test to check for possible coronary artery disease (CAD) before you show any sign and symptoms. A heart scan gives your doctor more information and better clarity as well as identifying your risk of heart disease. It may also be needed if your risk for heart disease is still unclear. This test may also be needed to give you a more specific treatment plan. 

Plaque can be comprised of cholesterol, fats, calcium, and other substances in the blood. It develops gradually over time, long before there are any signs or symptoms of heart disease. A coronary CT calcium scan can be a effective screening tool to diagnose calcium deposits at a early stage. Plaque deposits can also block and restrict the flow of blood to your heart’s muscles, they may also burst, or develop into a blood clot that can cause a heart attack.

How a Coronary CT Calcium Score Works 

The Coronary CT Calcium score test makes use of special x-ray technology to scan and produce multiple images of the coronary arteries for plaque deposits and check if they are blocked by the buildup of plaque, which is a sign of coronary artery disease. 

This helps doctors evaluate your risk for a heart attack. Since plaque takes up calcium, it can light up and can be detected in a heart and CT scan, which otherwise cannot be measured non-invasively. A higher coronary artery calcium score usually indicates the presence of a coronary artery plaque, which can lead to an obstruction over time. When this happens, it can lead to a tightening of the chest, increased pressure or discomfort from physical exertion. When plaques rupture, they can cause a blood clot or a total coronary artery obstruction which leads to a heart attack. 

Since plaque can develop gradually, early detection of the levels of plaque in your coronary arteries can be a good preventative measure and help doctors assess your risk so as to prevent them from worsening even further.

What Your Calcium Score Means 

Because calcium is an indicator of coronary artery disease, the amount of calcium detected in your coronary CT calcium score test is a useful prognostic tool for your risk for heart disease. 

A negative coronary CT calcium score means that there is no calcification within the coronary arteries. This means your risk of having a heart attack over the next five years is very low. 

A positive coronary CT calcium score shows that CAD is present and indicates the likelihood of a heart attack in the coming years. Your doctor or cardiologist will work with you to decide on a plan to lower the risk of a heart attack through lifestyle or diet changes and the use of preventive medication. Other follow-up exams may be done to check for abnormalities and to check whether your treatment is working. 

Below is the extent of CAD is graded according to your calcium score:

Calcium ScorePresence of CAD
0No evidence of CAD
1-10 Minimal evidence of CAD
11-100Mild evidence of CAD
101-400Moderate evidence of CAD
Over 400Extensive evidence of CAD

Macquarie Medical Imaging: Healthier Hearts through Coronary CT Calcium Scoring 

Macquarie Medical Imaging is your trusted medical imaging partner, giving you accurate, research-grade medical imaging and interpretation for you and your family’s peace of mind. MMI has a CT Machine that is super fast (scans the heart in between heartbeats) and uses very low radiation for these kinds of scans. MMI is your centre for cardiac CT scans; the expertise of our staff makes all the difference. If you need to know your coronary CT calcium score, MMI is the smart choice. Contact us today. 

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