Recent advances in CT technology have made it possible to visualize the beating heart. The x-ray tube rotate a full 360° around the patient 3-4 times a second. Multiple detectors are aligned to receive the x-ray picture and hundreds of separate images covering the entire heart are obtained with each revolution. The entire heart can be imaged in one to 2 heartbeats (1-3 seconds). Each image represents a snapshot in time being acquired at 1/100th of a second in effect “freezing” the motion of the beating heart. By timing the arrival of intravenously injected radiographic contrast the coronary arteries can be visualized and analyzed for the presence of atherosclerotic plaque potentially producing stenosis (blockage).
Calcium scoring is a totally noninvasive CT scan procedure requiring only a few minutes in the scanner without needles or injections. Fasting is not generally required, and no changes in medication are necessary. Patient’s with pacemakers or other prosthetic devices can be safely scanned. Approximately 75 individual images of the coronary arteries are obtained allowing the detection of any calcium that may be present in atherosclerotic plaque. The amount of calcium detected is proportional to the extent of coronary atherosclerosis (plaque). Calcium deposits do not correspond directly to the percentage of narrowing within the arteries however, they do correspond to the risk of future heart disease. A low risk course suggest a low likelihood of coronary artery disease. High calcium score do not necessarily mean an immediate problem is present but may aid your physician in determining proper treatment and therapy.
Despite its clinical usefulness and noninvasive technique, calcium scoring is not always covered by insurance carriers. Hartford Hospital in conjunction with physicians in Jefferson Radiology and the Hartford Cardiac Lab report have established a single fee for patients requiring the test outside of insurance coverage.