Before the Procedure

How to prepare:

  • When you call to schedule your appointment, the scheduler will record the necessary information about your primary physician, if you have one.
  • Prior to the test, a blood lipid analysis by our specialized laboratories is recommended. This test can be obtained on the day of your exam and requires you to fast for 12 hours prior to the exam. You may take your medications as usual with sips of water.
  • CT scanners use x-rays. For your safety, the amount of radiation exposure is kept to a minimum. Because x-rays can harm a developing fetus, however, this procedure is not recommended if you are pregnant.
  • Tell your technologist and your doctor if you are:
    • pregnant
    • undergoing radiation therapy

During the Procedure

What to expect:

  • The nurse will help you to complete a risk assessment questionnaire.
  • You will change into a hospital gown. The nurse will record your height, weight and blood pressure. He or she will draw your blood for the lipid analysis.
  • You will lie on a special scanning table.
  • The technologist will clean three small areas of your chest and place small, sticky electrode patches on these areas. Men may expect to have their chest partially shaved to help the electrodes stick. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph (EKG) monitor, which charts your heart’s electrical activity during the test.
  • During the scan, you will feel the table move inside a donut-shaped scanner.
  • The high-speed CT scan captures multiple images, synchronized with your heartbeat. A sophisticated computer program, guided by the cardiovascular radiologist, then analyzes the images for presence of calcification within the coronary arteries:
    • Absence of calcium is considered a "negative" exam. It does not exclude the presence of "soft" noncalcified plaque.
    • If calcium is present, the computer will create a calcium score that estimates the extent of coronary artery disease.

After the Procedure

  • You may continue all normal activities and eat as usual after the test.
  • Interpretation of results:
    • The CT scan and its computer program will determine the number and density of calcified coronary plaques in the coronary arteries.
    • A calcium score is provided.
    • Your results will be examined and reviewed by a team of Cleveland Clinic cardiovascular specialists, including a cardiovascular radiologist and a preventive cardiologist.
    • The team will evaluate the calcium score, along with other risk factor measurements (risk factor evaluation, blood pressure, lipid analysis), to determine your risk for future coronary artery disease and will make recommendations regarding your lifestyle, medications or additional cardiac testing.
  • You and your primary care physician will receive the full report outlining your risk assessment and follow-up recommendations.

Please ask your doctor if you have any questions about the calcium-score screening heart scan.

This information is about testing and procedures and may include instructions specific to Cleveland Clinic. Please consult your physician for information pertaining to your testing.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/25/2019.

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