- Heart Disease and the Heart CT Scan Center
- A Visual Guide to Heart Disease
- Medical Illustrations of the Heart Image Collection
- Take the Heart Disease Quiz!
Electron Beam (Ultrafast) CT (EBCT) Introduction
EBCT, also called calcium-score screening heart scan, is a test used to detect calcium deposits found in atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary arteries of heart disease patients. State-of-the-art computerized tomography (CT) methods, such as this one, are the most effective way to detect coronary calcification from atherosclerosis, before symptoms develop. More coronary calcium means more coronary atherosclerosis, suggesting a greater likelihood of significant narrowing somewhere in the coronary system and a higher risk of future cardiovascular problems.
Your doctor uses the calcium-score screening heart scan to evaluate risk for future coronary artery disease.
Because there are certain forms of coronary disease, such as "soft plaque" atherosclerosis, that escape detection during this CT scan, it is important to remember that this test is not absolute in predicting your risk for a life-threatening event, such as a heart attack.
Your doctor may also order a coronary CT angiogram (CTA) to look directly at the arteries of the heart. With the CTA, pictures of your coronary arteries are made. This is regularly performed in addition to a heart CT scan now.
How Should I Prepare for a Heart CT Scan?
You may continue to take any medications but should avoid caffeine and smoking for four hours before the test. CT scanners use X-rays. For your safety, the amount of radiation exposure is kept to a minimum. But, because X-rays can harm a developing fetus, this procedure is not recommended if you are pregnant. Tell your technologist and your doctor if you are:
- Undergoing radiation therapy.
What Can I Expect During a Heart CT Scan?
During the CT scan of your heart:
- You will change into a hospital gown. The nurse will record your height, weight, and blood pressure. He or she may draw your blood for a 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 (ECG) monitor, which charts your heart's electrical activity during the test.
- You may also be given an injection of a contrast material to help the CT scanner directly visualize your coronary arteries.
- 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, analyzes the images for presence of calcification within the coronary arteries. Absence of calcium is considered a "negative" exam. But, 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.
- The calcium-score screening heart scan takes only a few minutes.
What Happens After a Heart CT Scan?
You may continue all normal activities and eat as usual after the heart CT scan.
The results of the scan will be reviewed. The following information will be obtained:
- The number and density of calcified coronary plaques in the coronary arteries.
- Calcium score.
Your heart CT scan results will be examined and reviewed by a team of cardiovascular specialists, including a cardiovascular radiologist and a preventive cardiologist. The team will evaluate the calcium score and/or your CT angiogram, 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 doctor will receive the full report outlining your risk assessment and follow-up recommendations. Ask your doctor if you have any questions about the calcium-score screening heart scan.
Is the Heart CT Scan Covered by Insurance?
Because this CT scan is a screening examination, it is not currently covered under most insurance companies and Medicare. Therefore, you will likely be responsible for all involved costs at the time of the exam. The examination cost is about $350.00 and includes all lab, technical, medical and professional interpretation charges.
WebMD Medical Reference
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Reviewed by Robert J Bryg, MD on September 15, 2009
Top Electron Beam Computerized Tomography Related Articles
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)An electrocardiogram is known by the acronyms "ECG" or "EKG" more commonly used for this non-invasive procedure to record the electrical activity of the heart. An EKG generally is performed as part of a routine physical exam, part of a cardiac exercise stress test, or part of the evaluation of symptoms. Symptoms evaluated include palpitations, fainting, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, or chest pain.
A heart attack happens when a blood clot completely obstructs a coronary artery supplying blood to the heart muscle. A heart attack can cause chest pain, heart failure, and electrical instability of the heart.
Heart Attack and Atherosclerosis Prevention
Heart disease and heart attacks can be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle with diet, exercise, and stress management. Symptoms of heart attack in men and women include chest discomfort and pain in the shoulder, neck, jaw, stomach, or back. Women experience the same symptoms as men; however, they also may experience:
- Extreme fatigue
- Pain in the upper abdomen
Leading a healthy lifestyle with a heart healthy low-fat diet, and exercise can help prevent heart disease and heart attack.
Heart Attack Pathology: Photo EssayA heart attack is a layperson's term for a sudden blockage of a coronary artery. This photo essay includes graphics, pictures, and illustrations of diseased heart tissue and the mechanisms that lead to coronary artery disease, and possible heart attack. A coronary artery occlusion may be fatal, but most patients survive it. Death can occur when the occlusion leads to an abnormal heartbeat (severe arrhythmia) or death of heart muscle (extensive myocardial infarction).
A heart murmur is a heart problem that can occur, for example, during pregnancy or exercise, or it can be a symptom of serious heart condition, for example, congenital heart defects or heart valve disease. A heart murmur makes a whooshing or swishing sound.
Symptoms of a heart murmur include swelling of the legs or feet, dizzy or lightheaded, black outs, chest pain, rapid heart rate (palpitations), difficulty doing normal daily activities, fatigue, and a bluish tinge on the skin, lips, and fingernails.
Treatment for heart murmurs in infants, children, and adults depend on the cause. Some heart murmurs can be harmless while some are serious and life threatening.
High Sensitivity Troponin Test Ranges and values
The high-sensitive troponin test can detect very low levels of troponin T in the blood. (There are three types of cardiac troponin proteins, I, T, and C.), which helps doctors diagnose a heart attack more quickly.
If troponin levels are elevated high and the ECG (EKG, electrocardiogram) indicates an acute heart attack, immediate cardiac intervention such as catheterization, stents, or a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG).
The high-sensitive troponin test can help diagnose heart conditions such as obstructive coronary disease (CAD), stable angina, congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy, chronic heart failure, myocarditis, aortic dissection, cardiotoxic chemotherapy, blunt trauma to the chest, and strenuous exercise, for example, endurance athletes.
You can prevent elevated troponin levels in the blood with a heart-healthy lifestyle a heart-healthy diet, maintaining your weight, limit alcohol, don’t smoke, practice stress reduction through stress reduction techniques, meditation, and yoga, manage your blood pressure and diabetes, and take all of your medications as your doctor has instructed you.
Call 911 immediately if you have chest pain and have symptoms of a heart attack, which include nausea, vomiting, belching, indigestion, upper abdominal discomfort that feels like stomach pain in the middle of the upper abdomen, upper back and arm pain, feeling as though you are getting the flu, sweating, a vague feeling of illness, and sweating.
Symptoms of Serious Diseases and Health ProblemsLearn how to recognize early warning signs and symptoms of serious diseases and health problems, for example, chronic cough, headache, chest pain, nausea, stool color or consistency changes, heartburn, skin moles, anxiety, nightmares, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, delusions, lightheadedness, night sweats, eye problems, confusion, depression, severe pelvic or abdominal pain, unusual vaginal discharge, and nipple changes.
The symptoms and signs of serious health problems can be caused by strokes, heart attacks, cancers, reproductive problems in females (for example, cancers, fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and sexually transmitted diseases or STDs), breast problems (for example, breast cancer and non-cancer related diseases), lung diseases (for example, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, lung cancer, emphysema, and asthma), stomach or digestive diseases (for example, cancers, gallbladder, liver, and pancreatic diseases, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn's disease), bladder problems (for example, urinary incontinence, and kidney infections), skin cancer, muscle and joint problems, emotional problems or mental illness (for example, postpartum depression, major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mania, and schizophrenia), and headache disorders (for example, migraines, or "the worst headache of your life), and eating disorders and weight problems (for example, anorexia or bulimia).