Calcium Heart Score

What is cardiovascular disease?

  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for adults in the United States with coronary artery disease (CAD) being the most common type.
  • It develops over may years and is caused by a buildup of plaque (atherosclerosis).
  • Atherosclerosis can lead to a partial or total blockage of the blood flow.
  • A heart attack is sometimes the first sign of CAD. Chest discomfort often does not occur until CAD has been present for some time.
  • Tests to detect CAD earlier are available so that preventive measures can be taken before a heart attack occurs.
coronary artery disease illustration
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What is a calcium score heart scan?

  • A calcium score heart scan is a computed tomography (CT) scan, or specialized x-ray, that detects calcified plaque in the coronary arteries.
  • Radiation exposure is limited and considered safe.
  • A calcium score heart scan provides information to predict the risk of having a heart attack, and helps providers make treatment decisions when caring for patients.
  • Many images are taken of the heart and viewed on a computer monitor.
  • A CT technologist notes each area where calcification of the coronary arteries is seen. This shows up like bone and is bright white.
  • A number (known as an Agatston Unit) is assigned to each calcium deposit selected and a total score is calculated by adding up the numbers.
  • The Agatston Units score is placed into one of four categories.
calcium heart scan score

Who should have a calcium score heart scan?

If you are or have any of the following:

  • man over the age of 45
  • woman over the age of 50
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • high cholesterol or triglycerides
  • family history of heart disease (heart attack, cardiac stent placement, bypass surgery, etc.)
  • current or former smoker
  • overweight
  • sedentary (you do not get adequate exercise)
  • concerned about your risk for having a heart attack

If you have had any of the following, you should not have a calcium score heart scan:

  • A previous heart attack (acute myocardial infarction)
  • cardiac stents
  • history of Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG)

Please speak with your physician if you:

  • have a pacemaker
  • have a defibrillator
  • are currently under the care of a cardiologist
  • No preparation other than avoidance of caffeine (coffee, tea, and chocolate) and nicotine for 12 hours before the test. This is because it is easier to get clear images when the heart rate is at it’s lowest (preferably less than 70 beats per minute)
  • No IV needed
  • Test takes only a few minutes to complete
  • You will have EKG leads attached to your chest to monitor your heart rate and allow the CT scanner to take pictures in between your heartbeats.
  • You will be asked to remove any metal that is near your heart (i.e. underwire bra). A gown is provided, if desired.
  • A Registered Nurse (RN) will review your results with you. Most of the time this occurs right after the scan is complete, so you will have your results before you go home.
  • You will receive education regarding a healthy diet and exercise as well as review when to go to the Emergency Department.
  • A cardiologist will also review your results if greater than ZERO.
  • Sometimes, a cardiac consultation is recommended for you for further evaluation of your score. Any recommendations will be communicated to you and/or your Primary Care Provider or other ordering provider.
  • Incidental findings are occasionally found by the radiologist when finalizing your report. This occurs because a cross-section of your body is imaged during the scan, allowing the radiologist to review your heart, lungs, and other structures. Concerning findings will be communicated with you and/or your Primary Care Provider or other ordering provider.
  • The self-pay cost is $99 (lowest price in Colorado Springs) and is not typically covered by insurance. Some insurance companies, however, are starting to recognize the benefit of this test and will cover it with certain diagnosis codes. Your cost may be slightly greater than $99 if your insurance company is billed.
  • You may call your insurance company to see if this test is covered. Please provide them with procedure code #75571 to determine your co-pay for the calcium score heart scan.
  • A physician’s order is not required, but it may help with getting insurance authorization in some cases.
  • Penrose Hospital at 2222 North Nevada Avenue
  • St. Francis Medical Center at 6001 East Woodmen Road
  • Please call 719-776-8010 to schedule your heart scan today.
  • If you have additional questions, please contact the CT calcium score department at 719-776-8080.
  • If you are experiencing symptoms, such as chest pain or heaviness, please consult a physician
  • If you are under the age of 50, soft plaque may be present even if your calcium score is low
  • It is recommended that you have your blood cholesterol levels monitored by your primary care physician to see if you are within normal limits
  • Please speak to your primary care physician or cardiologist/ordering provider regarding when to repeat this scan.
  • This test is not a substitute for a medical consultation
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Why should I have my test done through Penrose-St. Francis Hospital?

Penrose-St. Francis Hospital offers the lowest cost in Colorado Springs for your calcium score heart scan. Additionally, Colorado Springs Cardiology offers a review of your heart scan results with registered nurses from the cardiology clinic. The nurse will review your results and discuss elevated calcium scores with a cardiologist. Most patients receive their results right after the scan has been completed so you will have your results before you leave the hospital.

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